: For a few days in March, the Kerala team appeared like a bunch of weary legs at the Santosh Trophy’s final phase in Siligiri.
Suddenly, the boys who had finished runners-up in the national championship’s previous edition in Kochi, could not push themselves when it mattered the most.
To add to the team’s woes, a few of the team’s key players were hiding injuries.
Fed up with all this, the Kerala Football Association has now decided to go for a major revamp, to bring in brighter faces and fresher legs.
“We have decided to restrict the next Santosh Trophy to only players below 25,” the KFA President K.M.I. Mather told The Hindu , on the sidelines of the Bajaj Allianz junior football camp launch, at The Dunes Hotel here on Wednesday.
“We are trying this format for one year, on an experimental basis.”
This means that more than half the team which played the national championship early this year, including the KFA’s current Player of the Year V.V. Surjith who will turn 27 next year, will be ineligible to play the next Santosh Trophy.
Fearing a public outcry, the KFA and the selectors had found it tough to remove the established names from the State team in the past.
The new rule will now make their job easier.
“The new rule will bring in newcomers.
“If I.M. Vijayan or a top player is playing, nobody will come for that position.
“Also, in case of popular or established players, it’s tough to change them,” said Mather.
The KFA General Secretary P. Anilkumar said the association would conduct the inter-district championship only in the under-25 category.
“If we have under-25 players, at least we can try to produce players for the national team,” he said.
“We keep on looking at the same players.
“None of the State players who have been playing for the last five or six years continuously have got selected to the national camp.
“The national coach is also looking for younger players.”
Meanwhile, former Indian captain Jo Paul Ancheri said the new age restriction would force a lot of experienced players out of the team.
“A lot of experienced seniors in the SBT or the Kerala Police team will not get a chance to be in the team.
If we got for tournaments like the Santosh Trophy with only ‘junior’ players, it will not click,” said the former AIFF ‘Player of the Year’ Ancheri who played the Santosh Trophy till he was 30.
“But if they are looking to get players into the national team, and if the national coach is looking for youngsters, probably the new rule is okay.”
The KFA had recently decided to allow only under-35 players in the district and State leagues and the new under-25 rule for the Santosh Trophy should see a lot of fresh faces in the sport.