He started off as a forward and wanted to score plenty of goals, but it was his ability to prevent strikers from scoring that made him Kerala Football Association’s best senior footballer of the 2012-13 season.

T. Sajith, the hardworking defender for Kerala and the State Bank of Travancore, beat many seasoned players for the prestigious award.

The 27-year-old manned the Kerala defence admirably during the Santosh Trophy football championship, and was man-of-the match in the quarterfinal league against Jammu and Kashmir.

The award came as surprise for Sajith.

“It is a bonus. Normally, we defenders are unsung heroes. But I always give top priority to the team. I am ready to play in any position for the sake of the team. For me, what matters, at the end of the day, is the team winning, whether it is SBT or Kerala,” the defender said.

Hailing from Kasargod and from a family with a football lineage, it was natural that Sajith was attracted to the game. He learnt the basics of the game from his uncle ‘MRC’ Krishnan who was a former Services player.

Playing alongside his cousin, M. Suresh, who later became an international, Sajith quickly came through the ranks, and was good enough to represent Kasgarod district in the State School games.

Sajith was also the part of the Kerala Schools team for the National School Games.

After finishing school, he tried out for Viva Kerala. He was among the first batch of trainees to join Viva Kerala, and impressed coach Chathunni and later E.M. Sreedharn who drafted him into the main team.

Sajith played as a forward for Viva Kerala in the 2006-07 season. But, the presence of P.K. Anil Kumar and Baba Tunde meant that chances to play as a forward were few and far between for Sajith.

Though Viva Kerala qualified for the NFL, he didn’t stay with the Kerala club, leaving it when for Goan Club Vasco FC. He played one season for Vasco FC, and came back to join SBT as a ‘guest player’.

However, in his two seasons with the Thiruvananthapuram team, he played mostly in the midfield. He again shifted allegiance and went to Josco FC in the 2009 season and again played as a forward. That season he also made his Santosh Trophy debut.

Sajith rejoined SBT in 2011 when it gave him a permanent job. Circumstances forced him to become a defender as illness to one of the experienced defenders in the SBT side before a major tournament forced coach V.P. Shaji to look for replacement.

“Sajith has ability to play in both midfield and defence. I noticed he was good in tackles and was winning balls with ease from forwards. I thought he would fit in the role of a defender, and he didn’t disappoint me,’’ recalls Shaji.

Sajith says the award will motivate him to do better, and nurtures the ambition of winning the Santosh Trophy for Kerala.

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