Kerala Volley League was launched with much fanfare three years ago. The event had actor Mammootty as the brand ambassador and promised some of the country’s biggest stars on the teams’ list.
But the KVL, which was supposed to be the country’s first pro league, never took off.
“It’s very disappointing for players, we were the first to announce it and nothing came of it,” said international Tom Joseph, the country’s biggest star. “Rajasthan had one recently and Karnataka is also playing it but we don’t have one yet.”
Departmental hurdles seem to have come in the way of the league.
“We had to drop the league because departmental teams were not willing to have their players playing for other teams which carried other names,” said Nalakath Basheer, the Secretary of the Kerala State Volleyball Association.
Kishore Kumar, a former international and a big draw at tournaments with his shining pate, sparkling ear studs and gimmicks, agrees with Basheer.
“I don’t think the league will click in Kerala. And if we have players playing for sponsors and not their employers, then institutions will lose interest in the sport,” said Kishore, also the Secretary of the Kerala players’ union, the KWAVP. “They will stop hiring players. Of course, there will be glamour in a league but for a player, a job is more important.”
So, will Kerala have to go without its own league?
“We can have a league with institutional teams,” said Tom Joseph, who is playing his 15th State championship here. “The Rajasthan and Karnataka leagues are all institutional affairs. We can have attractive prize-money.”
Meanwhile, Kishore brought in another angle.
“We can rename the State inter-club championship as the Kerala Volley League and bring in big prize-money,” said Kishore. “And right now, the inter-club event is a six-team affair with departmental teams (in the men’s section). We need to expand to 12 and bring in six college teams. The college teams don’t get a chance to play big sides these days.
“When we were in SAI under Joseph sir, we used to go for all the all-Kerala tournaments and we used to beat departmental teams such as Kerala Police and KSEB.
“We used to have top colleges like Muvattupuzha’s Nirmala and Kochi’s Sacred Heart in many of these tournaments. That gave us very good exposure, made us stronger. Tom Joseph and I, along with Vibin George and Sayuj are all products of SAI. But these days, nobody wants college teams in tournaments.”
That opened many doors for talented young players.
“When you give exposure to college teams, their players will get noticed and get jobs,” explained Kishore. “Take the case of Kozhikode’s talented left-hander Prem Chand. I think he has been with SAI for nearly seven years, he hasn’t got a job yet.”
Well, they can think up new names for existing teams like Tough Cops (Kerala Police), Electric Boys (KSEB) and BP High (BPCL) to make the league look attractive.