For politicians in Kerala, it will be a different ball game at the Sevens Premier League. The Political League featuring MLAs and ministers will be one of the highlights of the SPL that got underway at Perumbavoor on Tuesday.

The political match-ups to be held at some point during the three-week-long tournament will make clear whether the people’s representatives can bring into the football field the agility and resilience they display in the game of politics.

The tournament is being organised jointly by Kochi-based sports firm N Sports in association with Kerala Tourism, Field Publicity, Nehru Yuva Kendra, State Youth Welfare Board, district panchayat, Perumbavoor municipality and Kerala Sevens Football Association.

The second edition of the SPL got off to a colourful start at the Government Boys’ High School ground at Perumbavoor with former Kerala footballers — I.M. Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri, U. Sharaf Ali, M. Suresh, K.R. Harshan, and P.S. Hashim – lighting the torch. It was followed by a scintillating match between the Kerala Sevens featuring these players and Base Perumbavur, the defending SPL champions. The maiden edition of SPL held at Kakkanad last year had won the State government’s award for the best football event.

The tournament featuring 16 teams and 19 matches will be played in a round robin league format followed by knockout matches. The new champion will be crowned after the finals on March 5.

Organisers said SPL would enter the Limca Book of World Records and Indian Book of Records as the biggest football carnival of the country and a declaration to this effect was likely at the end of the tournament.

Food festival, folk arts, fashion events and film screenings will be part of the football carnival. Representatives of both the record books will be present to screen the credentials of the claim.

Apart from Political League, the tournament will feature Corporate League for IT and new generation companies, Women’s League with teams from Kerala and Goa, Kid’s League, and the shootout-based local hero cup that will be open to spectators including women and children. Film actors may also take to the field under the banner of AMMA (Association of Malayalam Movie Artists). These matches will be played ahead of the SPL matches, which will be played in two halves of 30-minutes each under floodlights.

A green turf of national standards has been readied at a cost of Rs. 9 lakh while a temporary gallery, which the organisers claim to be the biggest since the ones prepared for Santhosh Trophy and Nehru Cup in the past, has also come up.

If the brisk sale of tickets is any indication, then Perumbavoor is already in the grip of football fever, from which there will be no recovery for the next three weeks.

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