A few months ago, the Kerala Football Association President K.M.I. Mather spoke about walking the sevens route more often to revive elevens football in Kerala.
His strategy was to lure sevens clubs, offer them temporary registration, play them in KFA-approved sevens tournaments and make the sport’s base bigger.
“Slowly, we will try to bring them to regular football, to the elevens” he said.
The success of the KFA-backed sevens tournament at Edavanna, near Manjeri in Malappuram, last year had given him the assurance that he was on the right track.
For long, the KFA had penalised and banned players who were caught playing in illegal sevens tournaments but the mood appeared to be changing a bit in recent times.
There was even talk of attempts being made by the KFA to bring the ‘errant’ clubs under its fold.
But with the Kerala Sevens Football Association — which does not come under the KFA or the national body AIFF’s umbrella – announcing the dates of its second Indian Sevens Football Premier League in Kochi on Friday, the KFA has decided to take a stern stand.
The KSFA’s sevens premier league, scheduled for February 12 to March 5 at Perumbavur in Ernakulam District, clashes with the Santosh Trophy National Championship which will also be played in the district, in Kochi, from February 14 to March 3.
The ‘illegal’ sevens tournaments, which frequently attract huge crowds, offer good money to top players and the KFA is aware that some of the Santosh Trophy stars could be lured to the Perumbavur sevens’ league.
“We will be watching all the hotels where the Santosh Trophy teams are staying, we will watch players’ movements very closely. We will also recommend the AIFF to take action in this regard,” Mather told The Hindu on Friday.
“We had some problems during the Scissors Cup in Kozhikode a few years ago, so to avoid similar problems, we will be having our people in hotels where teams are staying.”
The KSFA’s sevens premier league, which made its debut at Kakkanad in Kochi last year, was played to packed stands. So, is there a danger of fans ditching the Santosh Trophy and rushing to Perumbavoor?
“I don’t think it will be a problem,” said Mather. “But if the first few (Santosh Trophy) matches are not good, not only from Perumbavur, the crowd will not even come from Aluva.”
Clearly, the KFA has to work out a smart strategy to handle these new problems.