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Long-desired return for Anas Edathodika and Othallo Tabia

Othallo Tabia and Anas Edathodika

Othallo Tabia and Anas Edathodika

Playing in Kerala after twenty-one months could not have gladdened anyone more than Pune FC skipper Anas Edathodika and senior-most defender Othallo Tabia.

For both the 35th Federation Cup is a homecoming of sorts. This, because both ply their skills outside Kerala apart from starved top-notch football activity in the football-crazy state.

Trivandrum-based Othallo, explains; “It’s a great feeling to play here (Kerala) after long time. The Fed Cup to Kerala is always taken seriously by the spectators and that’s also because there is no I-League team.”

Othallo’s opinion is seconded by the fact that on-arrival on Saturday every Pune FC member was greeted by the hosts with a garland. The warmness extended into Sunday as well when the squad was accorded with traditional music when they arrived for a practice session at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi.

“Spectators in Kerala know their football and are thoroughly versed with the game,” he adds.

As a Pune FC player Othallo’s visit to ‘God’s Own Country’ is his fifth, which includes playing three I-League games (at Calicut, Kannur and Kochi) and the 3rd E.K Nayanar Memorial Gold Cup.

With Pune FC drawn to play their Group matches in Kochi, Othallo explains, “I am yet to play in Trivandrum and yearn to do so one day,” before adding, “Manjeri (the second venue for Fed Cup) would have been better.”

Why Manjeri?  And Othallo echoes, “That’s because Mallapuram is the Brazil of Kerala football… the interest, the passion is something one has to see to believe. Nevertheless, Kochi is equally good.”

While Othallo cuts a compromise on not playing at Manjeri, Skipper Anas, who hails from Kondotti, just 20 kilometers from Manjeri, turns out to be a case of being home, but away from home!

Anas says; “I was thrilled when Kerala was to host the Fed Cup at Kochi and Manjeri, but when the groups were allotted I said… No, this cannot be.”

“But again, it’s great to be back playing in Kerala after a gap of almost two years. I am expecting some of my fans/ family to make the 150-odd km journey across the state and cheer us.”

With Pune FC opening against local-side Eagles FC, Othallo feels spectator support will rest on who plays best in the match. “Irrespective of the team, spectators here in Kerala appreciate good football and not a team from the State.”

For Anas turning up for Pune FC in Kerala will be his second appearance, last being at Kochi. Importantly, Anas also carries the distinction of being the only Kerala player to lead an I-League club this season.