Football-crazy Malappuram ready to host Santosh Trophy

Bengal, Punjab and Meghalaya are Kerala’s other rivals in Group A, while defending champion Services, Karnataka, Manipur, Gujarat and Odisha make up Group B.

L - R - Punjab, Gujarat, Kerala, WB, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Sevices, Odisha, Manipur, Rajasthan   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The Santosh Trophy has long lost its sheen as the country’s premier domestic football tournament. It has become more of a youth event or a showcase for fresh talents looking to impress leading clubs.

But its 75th edition, which kicks off here -- and at Malappuram -- on Saturday, is likely to be among its most successful ones in recent times. That is because of the fans in this part of the world.

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You would come across some of India’s craziest football fans in the district of Malappuram. During a tour of the district during the last World Cup, four years ago, this correspondent had seen houses painted according to the jersey colours of teams like Brazil, Argentina and France. One had also met a fishmonger, who sold fish at half the market-rate on Brazil’s match days.

So good crowds are expected for the tournament, especially for Kerala’s matches. “The sale of tickets has been encouraging,” says the Malappuram District Football Association secretary P.M. Sudheer Kumar. “Most of the online tickets have already been sold out.”

The natural turf at Payyanad football stadium near Manjeri being spruced up for the Santosh Trophy. Photo: SAKEER HUSSAIN

 

Thousands of fans could be lining up at the Malappuram Sports Complex Stadium here on Saturday night, ahead of Kerala’s match with Rajasthan. The host, which last won the tournament in 2018, starts as one of the favourites.

Bengal, Punjab and Meghalaya are Kerala’s other rivals in Group A, while defending champion Services, Karnataka, Manipur, Gujarat and Odisha make up Group B.

The semifinals will be played on April 28 and 29 and the final on May2.

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