Without the I-League players, the 67th Santosh Trophy National football championship may have lost a lot of its glamour.
Even the Second Division clubs have given their stars to their respective State associations only reluctantly.
Still, players have a very good reason to put their best foot forward, which kicks off in Kochi on Thursday.
For, talent scouts are closely watching their performance and jotting down names for the AIFF’s IPL-style league which will be hosted by its commercial partners, IMG-Reliance.
Tamil Nadu’s former international Syed Sabir Pasha and C.M. Ranjith are on the job, taking down the names of talented players. They are already in Kollam and will move to Kochi in a few days.
“Yes, it will be a big motivation for players, they have a good reason to do their best,” said Sabir Pasha who coached Tamil Nadu to the runner-up spot in the last Santosh Trophy.
“We are here to find good, talented players and we are sure there will be plenty available in the Santosh Trophy.”
Sabir said he has not been told about the number of players to be picked.
“We are just taking down the names of talented players, there is no number as of now.”
He said another team is at work in the Santosh Trophy’s Varanasi leg where stronger teams like Maharashtra and Punjab are now in action in the qualifying round league games.
Both Sabir, an AFC ‘A’ licence coach, and Ranjith have had national coaching assignments, mostly at the junior level.
Cricket’s recent IPL auction, in Chennai, threw up plenty of surprises. While many big names were bought cheap, little-known Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell went for a million dollars!
Some of the Santosh Trophy stars could well be dreaming something like that over the next few days!