As he wove his way stealthily from the back and scored goals at will, Mohammed Ansaf proved that he has a wily head on his young shoulders.
Son of a gardener, Ansaf took to football three years ago at the Parappur centre in Thrissur. He had his first taste of success at the State under-12 inter-district football championship which made its debut in Kochi recently. With his five goals, including two in the final against Malappuram, the youngster played a major role in Thrissur lifting the title at the Maharaja's Stadium here.
Kerala may have had a disappointing run in the Santosh Trophy, football's Senior Nationals, the last few years but hundreds of little boys with dreams in their eyes are sweating it out in the land of I.M. Vijayan. And these little gems offer hope for the future.
“We have 16 academies in Thrissur and I visit these academies as an observer from the District Football Association…we have six coaches,” said former Kerala Santosh Trophy coach M. Peethambaran, who heads the panel of coaches. “Coaching is given thrice a week in three-hour sessions. And you can see the results,” he said.
“We had 235 boys for the trials to pick the Thrissur district team for this under-12 championship… and more than 600 turned up for the junior team trials. The mass participation helps us spot rich talent.”
Thrissur did not get enough time to prepare its teams last year, adds Peethambaran. “But this year, we have prepared well. And Thrissur has entered the finals or the semifinals in all the State tournaments this year.”
Thrissur, however, had to go through many anxious moments in the final against Malappuram. Especially, when the pint-sized K. Akhil kept raiding the Thrissur area. He was successful early in the second-half, scoring the equaliser, and looked good for another before Thrissur pulled up its socks and triumphed 2-1.
Malappuram's little stars came mainly from the four SEPT (Sports and Education Promotion Trust) Academies in the district. “In fact, 17 of our 18 boys come from our SEPT academies and nine from Therattammal centre, near Areecode,” said D.T. Mujeeb, the Malappuram coach.
The SEPT centres in the State are now synonymous with quality coaching. The academy also brings foreign coaches to train the youngsters and providing exposure in junior tournaments abroad. K. Akhil and K. Rumais are two of the young stars from the SEPT system who lit up the under-12 State Championship.
The little kids spoke about their big dreams. Of doing a Vijayan one day, of striking it rich in football's pro world.