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.
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.
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.