By Febin Jose
The third edition of the Kerala Premier League (KPL) kicked off at the P P Esthose Memorial Municipal Stadium in Muvattupuzha. The 15-day long football league, organized by the Kerala Football Association, was inaugurated by MLA Joseph Vazhakkan. The premier league will feature seven clubs and the Kerala U-21 State team, battling it out for the trophy, from April 16th to May 1st.
KPL is one of the two premier league football tournaments organized by the Kerala Football Association, working from within the state. Well renowned clubs like the Kerala Police football club, which has produced distinguished players like I M Vijayan in the past, open new opportunities for the young upcoming players to showcase their talent as the event unfolds. The Kerala Under-21 State team is all set to lock horns with the competitors as they prepare for a successful run in the Santosh Trophy football tournament.
Anil Kumar, the Kerala Football Association Secretary, said that tournament was going to be a huge boost in morale and practice for the Kerala U-21 team. The State U-21 boyâ€™s football team are also drafted into the third edition as the state hopes to prepare a challenging side for next seasonâ€™s Santosh Trophy.
â€śWe want to give the kids good groundwork for the next seasonâ€™s Santosh Trophy,â€ť says Anil Kumar, secretary of Kerala Football Association. â€śThe All India Football Association have suggested significant changes in the Santosh Trophy next season with five U-21 players in the starting XI so participating in the KPL will be a good exposure to the boys,â€ť he said.
As the All India Football Federation is planning a U-21 national league, this tournament would give the kids an opportunity to get the feel of the competition, he added. Solly Xavier, the U-21 football team coach also reciprocated Mr Anil Kumarâ€™s views and elucidated how such an experience could boost the morale of the young players.
Apart from the defending champion State Bank of Travancore (SBT), the recent State clubs champion Kerala Police and Thrissurâ€™s Kerala FC, which had a notable run in the recent clubs championship at Perinthalmanna, KPL will also feature clubs managed by Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), Accountants Generalâ€™s Office (AG) Thiruvanthapuram, Central Excise and Cochin Port Trust in the menâ€™s section.
These experienced teams would be testing opponents for the young players and would buoy up the players to work hard for a win. It will be played as a group format league featuring 12 group matches with the Kerala State U-21 football team clubbed with KSEB, SBT and the Cochin Port Trust. The top two teams from each group will progress to the semi-finals and the final will be played on May 1.
The first match was played between Thiruvanthapuram AGâ€™s office and Thrissur FC Kerala with the former winning with a three goal margin and a 5-2 score line.
Kerala Football Association is also inaugurating a new tournament called the Kerala Super League in 2016 featuring a maximum of 12 teams. Each team will be managed and formed by franchises with a Home Ground allocated at a recognised location. The final team list is yet to be published.
KPL features teams from across three districts; four from Thiruvanthapuram, two from Ernakulam, one from Thrissur and the Kerala Under-21 team, which will be hosted by the Muvattupuzha FC. The menâ€™s league matches begin at 7 p.m. on all days.
The second womenâ€™s Kerala Premier League, a four-team event, will also be played simultaneously and will feature Thiruvallaâ€™s Marthoma College, Kozhikodeâ€™s Quartz Womenâ€™s FC, Kottayamâ€™s Dinesh Soccer Club and Alleppey Womenâ€™s FC. The womenâ€™s league, where matches begin at 5 pm, begins on April 17 and ends on April 22.
â€śWe wanted to include more teams in the Womenâ€™s League. At least seven others are available at the moment, but due to examinations, some of these teams said that they wonâ€™t be able to field a team in time. So we had to go with four teams,â€ť said Anil Kumar.
The menâ€™s league offers a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh to the winner and Rs 50,000 to the runner-up while the womenâ€™s event offers Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 to the top two finishers respectively. Dentcare Dental Lab Pvt. Ltd. are the title sponsors for this yearâ€™s Kerala Premier League.
The tickets are priced at Rs 50 for gallery, Rs 100 for normal chair, Rs 500 for VIP chair and Rs 1000 for the VVIP chair. Apart from these, season tickets are also available.