Kerala

Two Keralites steer India to football trophy

Cutouts of football players Thomas Meyjo and Alan Soloman at the streets of their village Chellanam in Ernakulam.

Cutouts of football players Thomas Meyjo and Alan Soloman at the streets of their village Chellanam in Ernakulam.  

Team wins Dragon Cup, one of the trophies in the Homeless World Cup

Having won the Dragon Cup, one of the six trophies up for grabs at the just-concluded Homeless World Cup football at Cardiff, Thomas Mayjo, a youngster from Chellanam, could not have dreamt of a better birthday gift. He will turn 23 on August 10.

The Indian victory, its first major win in the 17-year-old four-a-side tournament, was anchored by solid performances by two Keralite youngsters at either side of the small pitch measuring 22x16.

While Mayjo was rock solid at the Indian goal, 20-year-old Alan Soloman K.J., also from Chellanam, netted 21 goals at the end of the tournament at Bute Park in the Welsh capital.

Mayjo’s most memorable moment came after the match against Croatia. “The organisers of the Homeless World Cup posted a video of my save in that match describing it as the save of the tournament on their Facebook page. It gave me goosebumps,” the youngster told The Hindu over phone from Cardiff just before boarding the flight back home. For Alan, that moment was a 15-second burst in the group stage match against the mighty Egyptians in the main draw of the event. “We were trailing them by three goals to five when I managed a twin strike drawing us level. It was surreal,” Alan said. Unfortunately, Egypt edged past India with a last second goal and qualified for the next round as group toppers while India, third in the group, exited the main event marginally.

Indians wiped off that disappointment by pipping the favourites Germans in the finals of the Dragon Cup, level four of the Homeless World Cup, by six goals to four with Alan finding the back of the net twice.

A decade of experience

Both the youngsters, who have been playing for over a decade on the sandy beaches of their village, got the dream opportunity thanks to Project VENDA (Say NO to Drugs) run by Fourth Wave Foundation, an NGO in Kochi steering youngsters from substance abuse through healthier pursuits like football.

It gave them an opportunity to represent the State at the National Inclusion Cup, organised annually by the Nagpur-based NGO Slum Soccer, in Mumbai in February. Thus was cleared their way to the list of Indian probables and then to the eight-member squad for the Homeless World Cup.

Richer by their global experience, both are now determined to make football their career. Having played for the district at the Under-17 and Under-19 level, Alan now dreams of playing in the Indian Super League while Mayjo wants to enroll for coaching lessons. However, both have a common goal: passing on their experience and inspire talented youngsters in their neighbourhood.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 11:24:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/two-keralites-steer-india-to-football-trophy/article28828178.ece

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