Football

A striker emerges from the Games

Maharashtra's T.V. Mohammed Irshad (middle) in action against Goa during a football match at the 35th National Games in Kozhikode. File photo   | Photo Credit: PTI

He was just a Pune league player till 10 days ago, but T.V. Mohammed Irshad finds himself a star, after emerging as the top-scorer of the football competition at the National Games.

“I would have been happy to score just a goal or two, but to become the top-scorer is something I could not have imagined in my wildest dream,” Irshad told The Hindu here on Tuesday, a day after he scored to help Maharashtra take the bronze.

“It was doubly sweet as I could do it in front of my family and relatives.” It may be for Maharashtra that the 20-year-old striker scored six goals, but he is from Tirur, which is just an hour-and-a-half drive from here. “I am delighted that I could do well for my adopted State Maharashtra, but yes, I would have played for Kerala if I was invited.”

He has no complaints about it, though. “I know that I was an unknown quantity until the National Games got under way,” he said. “I was part of the Viva Kerala under-19 team, and felt sad when the club had to shut down.”

Steep decline

Irshad said he decided to leave Kerala because the sport was in steep decline in the State. “Lack of professional clubs is hurting football in Kerala badly,” he said. “So I was glad to receive the offer from Pune’s DSK Shivajians FC during a tour of Maharashtra with my academy team (SAT), where I was trained by M. Peethambaran.”

The club too must be glad to have signed him. “I have scored 30 goals for my club,” he said. “I have definitely improved as a player after joined the club.”

Irshad is now hoping to play at the I-League and then the ISL. “The ISL has given fresh hopes to Indian and Kerala football,” he said. “I had supported Kerala Blasters, which I thought did exceptionally well to reach the final.”

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 3:06:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/35th-national-games-a-striker-emerges-from-the-games/article6879171.ece

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