A brief history of Kerala Football Association and the game in Kerala…
The wonderful game of football has been a passion of hundreds of thousands of Malayalees for the last several decades-- much before the tiny state of Kerala was born on November 1, 1956.
Amateur clubs, popular and skilful football players from the erstwhile Malabar, the princely states of Kochi and Travancore carved a niche for themselves with their fighting qualities and brilliant craft from the 1930s to the 1960s, entertaining millions of football fans from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragode.
Teams from Karachi and Bengal besides British military teams used to participate in early football tournaments organized by dedicated football lovers in Malabar, Trvancore and in the port city of Ernakulam.
HMC Kottayam, Calicut Young Challengers, Brothers, Lucky Star, Gymkhana (Kannur), and popular clubs in Malappuram, Palakkad, Fort Kochi, Ernakulam, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram produced well known players such as Kottayam Saleh, James Fenn and Thiruvalla Pappan (T D Varghese), Thrissur Antony, Pappu, Leiban, D’cruz, Olympians T A Rahman and O. Chandrasekharan, Chidanandan, R Balakrishnan, Petta Ravi, Moideen Kutty, goalkeeper Mustafah, Dr. Rajagopal, Thiruvalla Thomas, Balagopal, T K Chathunni, Sathyan, Jayaram, Balakrishnan,Indrabalan, Malappuram Aziz, Ramakirshnan etc etc.
Clubs such as Premier Tyres, Kalamassery, Alind Kundara, KSRTC, AG’s Office, Young Challengers, Titanium and Kerala Police followed by F C Kochin, India’s first professional football club, and Viva Kerala helped produce a new breed of talented footballers and spread the fame of Kerala across the country. Kerala Police, in fact, nine Indian footballers and has lifted the Federation Cup in 1990 and 1991 while F C Kochin became the first Kerala team to win the prestigious Durand Cup, beating Mohun Bagan, in 1997. Alind Kundara, FACT, Premier Tyres and Kerala Police had won many national tournaments too.
Inspired by the glory those wonderful dedicated players( some of them even became very popular in Bombay, Madras, Goa and Bengal as well), Kerala saw the birth of talented players such as Mani, the hat-trick hero and captain of the victorious 1973 Santhosh trohphy team, Jaffar, Williams, Devanand, Najimuddin, C C Jacob,
M M Jacob, Victor Manjila, Sethumadhavan, Xaviour Pious, Najeeb, Sathyan, Sharf Ali, Pappachan, I M Vijayan , Jo Paul Ancheri ….to Mohammed Rafi, Ajayan and Pradeep, Sakeer….
Remember, Kerala has produced five Olympians like Saleh, Rahman, Chandrasekharan, Narayanan and Thiruvalla Pappan in the golden era of Indian football in the 50s and 60s.
Dedicated coaches like Olympian Simon Sunder Raj, though not a Malayalee by birth, former coach of FACT and Kerala, K. Bharathan, A M Sreedharan, T K Chathunni, C C Jacob, M M Jacob, Peethambaran and the like have contributed a lot to the development of football in the state.
The Fort Maidan( Kannur), Manachira maidan( Kozhikode ), Fort maidan (Palakkad) Kottappady MSP Grounds, Malappuram, Durbar Hall Grounds, Ernakulam, Maharaja’s College Grounds, Ernakulam,Parade Ground, Fort Kochi, Nagampadam maidan, Kottayam, Thoppil maidan (Thrissur), football fields at Thiruvanthapuram and Pettah were some of the well known football fields in the state which groomed many popular and international players in the past.
Kerala is indeed indebted to the late Col. Goda Varma Raja, popularly known as Thirumeni, for paving the way for organized football in Travancore and Cochin.
Thirumeni was instrumental in organizing the Asian Cup qualifying round tournament, involving Israel, Iran, Pakistan and India, at the Maharaja’s College Grounds, Ernakulam in 1959 and had spearheaded a team of organizers in hosting the Santosh Trophy for the first time in Kerala in 1956.
In fact, these two major events enhanced the popularity of the game across the state with players of international repute such as Levi (Israel), Qayyum Chenghazi and Ummer (Pakistan), Peter Thankaraj, Jarnail Singh, Chuni Goswami, Balaram, Lathif, Zulfiquar, P K Banerjee, Devadas, Narayanan, Rahman (India) becoming stars overnight.
There was a time when Kerala hosted some eight all India football tournaments every year namely Kerala Trophy, G V Raja Trophy, Mammen Mappilay Cup, Nehru Cup, Chacholas Gold Cup, Sait Nagjee Trophy and S N Trophy. Top clubs from Kolkata, Mumbai, Goa, Hyderabad, Secunderabad, Bangalore, and Madras besides many military teams and their skilful players were household names in Kerala then.
Indeed, those were the glorious days of football in the state.
G V Raja played a key role in the formation of the Kerala Football Association (KFA) way back in 1948 and headed the association having its base in Thiruvananthapuram.
Later the headquarters of KFA was moved to Kollam after P Laxmanan Pillai was elected president and K Thankappan Honorary Secretary.KFA saw a new breed of organizers taking over the reins of KFA in the 70s with former Mayor of Cochin A K Seshadri becoming the president.
Later past presidents such as A. K. Seshadri, T. O. Abdulla (Ernakulam), who went on to become the Vice President of All India Football Federation, and P P Laxmanan (Kannur), who later became the Hon. Secretary and Executive President of AIFF and President of Saarc Football Federation, and the present president K M I Mather steered KFA with a sense of direction, albeit there had been ups and downs too. They were ably supported by the hardworking Hon. Secretaries U P Johny (Thrissur), K Bhodannadan (Thiruvananthapuram), K. Sugunan (Kollam) and K P Sunny (Thrissur) in the past.
Now KFA has its first fulltime secretary in P Anil Kumar, a former Services football player and DFB – B Licence holder, who has been appointed in accordance with the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and AIFF statutes and guidelines.
In the past, KFA had hosted many national events like Santosh Trophy 1954, 1955-56, 56-57, 1960-61,65-66,73-74, 75-76, 81-82, 87-88, 90-91,92-93,99-2000 and 2005-06, Federations Cup 1977, 82, 90,93, and 1996, youth, junior and sub-junior tournaments besides women competitions, and international championships such as the Nehru Trophy 1983, 1985, 1987, 1990-91,and 1997-98, Asian Cup 1956 and Sahara Cup 1999-2000.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and All India Football Federation (AIFF) have entrusted KFA to launch the Vision India (Kerala) project with the wholehearted support of Kerala Sports Council and various Centres in the state. This project is aimed at popularizing the game at school levels. Presently 91 centers in 14 districts actively participating in Vision Kerala venture. More and more schools are expected to join this programme in the immediate future. KFA has also mooted programmes to popularize the game at taluk and panchayath areas.
KFA has set its eyes on the ambitious GOAL project by football’s supreme governing body the FIFA.
Yes, KFA is on the move for the development of football in Kerala and to bring back the glory of the game.
----Courtesy: Bhasi Malaparamba, A M Sreedharan, D Shijumon, Mathrubhumi