Even as football in Karnataka is on the upswing following a recent string of victories, administrators need to back the available talent
Karnataka football seems to be in the process of effecting a turnaround at all levels of the sport. Recently, the under-16 team finished runners up in the Mir Iqbal Hussein trophy sub junior National championship. The State under-19 team bagged the Dr. B.C. Roy trophy in the 46th junior National football championship held at Mandya recently.
The success of these youngsters should induce the Karnataka State Football Association to invest a lot more into youth development programmes. The emergence of the FIFA Goal Project at the football stadium and the all-purpose turf that will be laid by FIFA soon are positive signs.
However, a lot more needs to be done. The concept of shifting the junior Nationals to a district like Mandya, which boasts a strong football base, was a good move. However, the low turn-out in most matches dented the purpose.
The three-week-long preparation camp under coaches J. L. Andrew and Sarvanan may not have been an ideal one, especially when one compares the preparations that the teams from Jharkhand, Manipur and Mizoram underwent. The emergence of football academies in many States in the north and the strong presence of the Tata Football Academy in Jharkhand played a vital role in the performances of those teams. Meanwhile, traditionally strong units like Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh faded away in the early stages.
West Bengal and Tamil Nadu made it to the quarter-finals, but were beaten by lesser known outfits.
Coming back to Karnataka's performance, in Vinoth Kumar, who scored four goals in the championship, Karnataka has discovered a striker for the future. His use of his physical structure to get the better of the defence holds him in good stead. “I want to play for my country and do well on the international stage,” says the 17-year old Cauvery College student.
Sridhar also played a vital role in the State juniors. “I dropped out after 10th to concentrate on football,” says Sridhar, whose father drives a tourist vehicle. He quips, “I want to study but want to make a career in football. Turning rofessional and playing for my country is my goal.”
Shankar, who captained the India under-16 team in the Asian championships last month also led admirably in the junior Nationals. A back strain forced him to miss some matches. However, he led the side in the final and also succeeded in netting a crucial ‘penalty' to seal the victory for the state..
The likes of Santosh, M. Lokesh and R. Mohan were brilliant in the midfield and Bimal Nandi proved to be a stumbling block for most rivals.
The onus now lies on the State associations to ensure that this talent is nurtured and brings more laurels to the state and the country.AVINASH NAIR