P. Jain, the lynchpin of the Services attack

"He has potential to represent India if he is groomed properly. He is a natural goal-scorer. You will hear a lot about him in future."

P. Jain may be donning the East Bengal colours in the I-league this season after Kolkata giant was keen to sign him on loan.   -  M. R. Praveen Chandran

Trikaripur panchayat, bordering the Kannur district, in Kasargod is home to some of the finest footballers from Kerala.

Kerala Blasters striker and Indian international Mohammed Rafi, his brother Mohammad Shafi, former East Bengal and Indian international M. Suresh Kumar, Santosh Trophy stars Mohammed Aslam, Biju Kumar and Sajith are some of the well known footballers from this small panchayat.

As a youngster growing up in Trikariupur it was natural for Services’ spearhead P. Jain to get hooked to the game while accompanying his cousin Subash, a Railways football player, to the ground. But it was when he joined the Government Higher Secondary School for his plus one course, did Jain think of seriously of pursuing a career in football.

Blessed with good physique, a lethal left foot and ability to score goals, Jain made an instant impression and was selected to represent the Kerala team for the junior national PYKKA tournament in Bhopal in 2010. He scored a lot of goals and got selected to the junior Indian camp. But some issues in the family forced him to abandon the trip to the camp.

At club level he made a mark with Subash Football Club run by M.Suresh Kumar. He got an offer from Golden Threads which was trying its luck in the I-league second division. Jain played two seasons for Golden Threads before he got employment with the Army in 2011.

His career took off after he joined the Army and for the last two years he has been the lynchpin of the Services attack in the Santosh Trophy. A big match player, Jain has impressed with his ability to score crucial goals against strong teams. In the highly competitive Kolkata Football League, Jain showed his worth by scoring goals against big teams like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Southern Samity. In this Santosh Trophy, he has been on target against Jammu and Kashmir, scoring the match-winner.

East Bengal was pretty impressed with Jain and offered him a long term contract. But Jain spurned down the offer as he was happy with the security of the job which the Army provided him. However, he may be donning the East Bengal colours in the I-league this season after Kolkata giant was keen to sign him on loan. "East Bengal approached the Army management seeking my services and they have agreed to release me. If everything falls in place, I will play for them this season. They (East Bengal) gave a good offer to play for them but for the time being I am happy with my job in the Army,’’ said the 24-year-old.

Jain was also called to the Indian camp for the SAFF Cup in Kochi. The striker says that the 20 odd days he spent at the camp was an education. "It was for the first time that I was attending an Indian camp and it was good experience practicing with Indian stars like Sunil Chettri. I learnt a lot and realised that I still had a lot to improve as a player,’’ he said.

Abhilash, the Services assistant coach, rates Jain highly. "He has potential to represent India if he is groomed properly. He is a natural goal-scorer. You will hear a lot about him in future." Jain for the time being is focused on helping Services retain the title again this year.