It took 19 years for the University of Calicut to get its hands All India University Title last year. Uncountable are the years it took for the people of Manjeri, a small municipality in Kerala (45 kms away from Calicut Railway Station), to eventually realise their dream of making it big on the Football map of the Country. Therefore boundless emotions took none by surprise as the town cloaked in greenery, decked up like a bride.
‘Our dream comes true’ read a banner with the Malappuram District Sports Complex (MDSC) Football Stadium in the background.
“A tournament of the Federation Cup’s stature is taking place in Manjeri for the first time, and only we know how much this means to us. We have been waiting for such exposure all our lives,” Satheevan Balan, the man who guided an average Calicut University Team to unbridled success in this year’s All India University meet, echoes.
“Kerala have produced some of the Country’s finest talents at one point of time. We have excellent potential to be tapped here still now. Players like Suhair, Sajith, Jijo and Rahul who played for Calicut in the University meet are real talents. Suhair has even made to the Kerala Santosh Trophy Camp.”
“The fact that Federation Cup will take place here and players like Senior India Players like Sunil Chhetri, Gouramangi Singh, Syed Rahim Nabi and others will strut their stuff here will inspire these kids a lot,” added Balan under whom Calicut University pumped in 54 goals during its dream run in the South Zone and All India Inter University tournaments and conceded just seven.
“We haven’t seen something like this here. This is incredible.” K. Biju, District Collector & General Convenor Organising Committee, told www.the-aiff.com on the sidelines of the inaugural function which took place for an hour and a half before kick-off of the first match between Dempo and Bhawanipore FC on Tuesday.”
Roughly 30,000 people braved the scorching sun to throng the Stadium two hours prior to kick-off on Tuesday. And 30000 stayed outside, or more.
“The entire population seems to be outside the Stadium. They all want to come in and it’s difficult to manage the rush. But of course, looking back it was a happy problem to have,” Mohammed Salim, Malappuram District Football Association Secretary said.
“People in Kerala as a whole are football crazy. What happens here in Manjeri is that we have small Football Clubs who play Tournaments among themselves. I am sure they have never seen something like this before. The Federation Cup will inspire the aspiring footballers from our country to dream big. This is a great step forward towards the development and promotion of the sport in this part of India,” added Biju.
Prominent dignitaries of Kerala including Chief Minister Oommen Chandy graced the occasion where the Malappuram District Sports Complex (MDSC) Football Stadium saw the light of the day.
“We have working on it for the last three months,” Biju further stated.
“You see the ground, dressing rooms, medical room, and other facilities have been made with utmost care and keeping in mind the passion for Football in this region,” he informs.
For the record, tickets are priced at Rs. 60, 100 and 150.
“Tickets were sold out well in advance for the first day. I believe for all the remaining matches, the story will be the same,” opines P. Ashraf, Treasurer Kerala Football Assocation (KFA) & Vice-Chairman Organising Committee.
Post the first match on Tuesday evening, Dempo SC Head Coach Arthur Papas in his Media Interaction said; “This is more about Indian Football trying to reach a higher level. This is a very passionate crowd, and they have been fantastic. This has to go down as one of the best atmospheres I have coached in India.”
“The people in this region are very friendly and I like this part of India,” added Papas.
Former India International Ashim Biswas complemented Papas. “The ground is very nice. The ground staff and locals here have done a commendable job,” Biswas, presently with Mohammedan Sporting, said.
“I remember playing in Kerala against Oman under Stephen Constantine. The Crowd was amazing that time also but this one is out of the World. While on our way to the Stadium from the hotel, we could see virtually the entire city taking the streets. I felt like a King,” added Biswas.
‘Malappuram has hosted many national invitation Tournaments. In 1953 the Khan Bahadur National Tournament was hosted here. But this is the first time a Tournament as big as the Federation Cup is taking place here. Emotions are bound to reach feverpitch,” local football scribe Jafar Khan pronounced.
“Let this be the start for Manjeri. Let there be more Tournaments here. Let us play an International Friendly here. Let this be the hub for the National team of India,” Khan wished.
(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)