A couple of months ago, the Payyannur College team got an invite from the Kerala Football Association to play the Kerala Premier League qualifiers. The Payyannur boys had won the Kannur District title and hence were eligible.
“Since the qualifiers’ venue (Thrikarippur) was close to our college and as we were preparing for the Kannur University inter-collegiate championship, we decided to play the KPL qualifiers just to get some match experience” K.N. Ajith, the college’s Physical Education Department HOD, told Sportstar on Wednesday.
But the college boys surprised themselves, entering the final where they lost 1-2 to Kerala Blasters and qualified for the KPL.
The KPL begins at Kozhikode and Malappuram on Thursday and Payyannur will be the championship’s lone college team.
Surprisingly, almost half the team is from Kasargod District.
“Since our college is near the Kannur-Kasargod border, many of our players are from Kasargod. Around 10 of our players are from the Thrikkarippur Academy and seven helped Kasargod win the State inter-district title recently,” revealed Ajith.
But with the KPL berth came new problems.
“We had to have an AFC B-licence holder as our coach and we had to go hunting around for one who would fit our budget too. Thankfully, we got K.K. Satheeshan, a retired army man, as our coach.”
The team is looking for somebody to support it to the tune of Rs 3.5 lakh but the big goal is to stay in the KPL next year too.
“For that, we must ensure we are not relegated. Also, since these matches will be streamed live, it could help one or two of our players to join a professional club. And if we stay in the league next season, our college will attract quality players,” explained Ajith.
“For many, the aim is to play the KPL so good young players will think our college offers that opportunity and will come rushing here.”
The Payyannur boys mostly play sevens football in the Malabar area and since they are used to playing against foreigners in these tournaments, the presence of overseas footballers is not likely to rattle them.