Principal Correspondent

KOCHI: Football officials in Kerala have been racking their brains over the last few days to solve a big problem.

The National Games football competition begins in Guwahati on February 9 but the Kerala Football Association has another major event to tackle.

Brazil's leading side Sao Paulo FC will be playing against a Kerala XI in Kochi on February 7 as part of the countrywide five-match Super Soccer Series, sponsored by the Tata Group and organised by Bengal's Indian Football Association, and the KFA has still not decided which event should be given preference.

"Of course, both are important. We are in a dilemma" said the KFA President K.M.I. Mather.

"Earlier, there was talk that the National Games would be postponed, so we thought the two dates would not clash but now they do."

Missing matches

If the State's best players are made to play Sao Paulo FC, they could miss the first few matches of the National Games for Kerala is scheduled to leave for Assam on February 5.

Kerala failed to enter the semifinals at the last Games in Hyderabad in 2002 after finishing third in its group but this time with the State Government announcing rich cash awards for winners, Guwahati would naturally be the first choice for the players.

The KFA has arranged the State camp for the National Games team in Thiruvananthapuram from January 22 but there is yet another headache.

Banks Olympiad

The Banks Olympiad will be held in Mumbai from February 3 to 9 and the State Bank of Travancore football team, which contributed seven stars to Kerala's 20-member side at the last Santosh Trophy, is scheduled to play there.

"We're the Banks Olympiad football winners for the last three years, so we'd like to send a strong side for the event," said T.P. Ajith Kumar, SBT's Manager (Sports).

So one could understand when the KFA secretary K.P. Sunny said, "our problems have all come together."

The KFA plans to call a meeting of coaches and officials, probably on Sunday, to discuss the issue.

"We're also planning to request the AIFF to change the dates of our National Games matches a bit," said Mr. Mather.

Kerala's football stars are an anxious lot these days.

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