Train journeys are a nightmare for me since I am responsible for all the young girls. While everyone sleeps, I stay awake
“I am a football coach of the Kerala Sports Council who has been on an assignment at the Nadakkav Girls Higher Secondary School for the past 12 years. I have trained many young girls who have gone on to play in the junior international, national, state and district teams. Two of my girls, Nikhila and Ashily, have played in the junior international team and Nikhila even attended the senior’s camp.
My day starts at 6.30 a.m. when I am at the ground. Practice goes on till about 8.30 a.m. and then I come back in the evening by 4 p.m. and coach children till about 6.30 p.m. I formed a Women’s Football Club in 2007 and every April-May we conduct training camps to which children from all backgrounds come. If about 100 come, there would be 20 who are really interested in the game. One knows how serious they are when they arrive for practice on time every day. That is the first sign. If they show promise we get them admission in the school and training begins.
For me, football is passion. My favourite footballer is Argentina’s Gabriel Batistuta, though as a team I tend to root for Brazil for their complete football. I studied in this school and my sports began here. As a student, I played a bit of everything — football, handball, cricket, hockey. The school boasted an active sport culture. I remember being the goalkeeper in Kerala handball team at the junior championships. I was also active in power-lifting and even won medals in it. But football is my enduring love. Initially at school, the seniors never let us play. All you could do was collect the ball when it went out, dribble for a while and give it back. We mostly practised at the Mananchira Square and the handful of us knew every blade of grass on that ground.
I was always the goalkeeper. Though short, I could dive well. I played at the national level, both junior and senior, for four to five years. Most of my friends who played with me have a Government job now. I met with an accident a few years ago and it interfered with the movement of my left hand. I could not undertake the mandatory training at the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Ludhiana. Though I used to play till about a few years back, the accident has made it impossible now.
When it comes to coaching, I impart all that I have imbibed from my coaches. I also constantly interact with trainers who have NIS training and pass on what I gather to my children. Earlier, women’s football was not part of school championships and now after constant requests from our side it has been included.
I am mostly travelling with my children taking them to different championships. In fact, I returned from Jharkhand two days ago. Most parents send their children as a woman coach is accompanying them. So train journeys are a nightmare for me since I am responsible for all the young girls. While everyone sleeps, I stay awake. But coaching and being on the ground is what I love, for football is part of life now.”
(A weekly column on the men and women who make Kozhikode what it is.)