KOVALAM FC – Kerala’s Own Club | Exclusive Interview With Ebin Rose

Kerala has always been a football crazy state. From IM Vijayan to Sahal Abdul Samad, Kerala has produced many players for the national team. The Malabar region of Kerala is famed across india for its passion towards football.The region is also considered to be the hot-spot of football in the state because it is home to Sevens football and the produces the state’s top talents. But one man strongly believes that Thiruvananthapuram, the state’s capital, always had more top talents than the Malabar region.He is Mr. Ebin Rose, the man behind Kovalam FC. Ebin Rose is a former Kerala Santhosh Trophy player and the club’s head coach. Kovalam FC is an exciting project which focuses mainly on the coastal areas of Thiruvananthapuram. The project aims to develop the next gen stars of Kerala. Kovalam FC is now one of the best Academies in Kerala.

(1) INSPIRATION TO START KOVALAM FC AND THE PEOPLE WHO PROPELLED ITS
GROWTH?

When football got me a secured job I felt obligated to share my skills with other boys in my village. I obtained a ‘C’ certificate in coaching and encouraged by Sam Gheevarughese, took a leading role in Vizhinjam zone when ‘Vision India Project’ was launched. After joining Titanium I took mentoring more seriously as a mission and started Kovalam FC. My “beach boys”, with their inherent talent, became formidable players, winning championships under different team banners. A British tourist with football club management experience, Tony Langham took a fancy to Kovalam FC and structured it into a professional club mould. Almost simultaneously Patric Sisupalan, a Keralite London coach with expertise in youth development trained the kids in a highly professional manner. Kovalam FC started its impressive progression in the District football scene. Prompted by a business group, Kovalam FC Foundation was formed with a highly popular coaching academy in the University Stadium. When the Foundation became more interested in business than in the game, Kovalam FC withdrew. In 2017 with M/S Educational Trust, another charitable society, we launched a new campaign, our SECOND COMING: “empowering the impoverished coastal families by educating their children”. Today we are going full steam to achieve that noble cause taking a path no one else has dared to tread. Right from Day 1, Shashi Tharoor was, and still is, our inspirational beacon. Johnie Muthoottu sponsored our team for first two years. In the “Second Coming”, our Trustees Chandrahasan, Babu Xavier and M/S ET Trustees are always there solving our teething problems. Dr. Jayakumar leased us his school grounds for stadium and hostel at ₹1 per year! Federal Bank and KIMS are the first corporate houses who had faith in us, helping us financially. Others who are always there to give us proper guidelines are Vijayaraghavan (TechnoPark), Balagopal (Terumopenpol) and Ambassador TPSrinivasan.

(2) HOW DID YOU GET INTO FOOTBALL? WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS YOU HAD
TO AND ARE FACING?
I have been fortunate to represent the District and State in several championship matches; to captain the University Team; to be crowned as the top scorer on all-India level; to participate in Durand and other Federation Cup tournaments; to play in I-League and to be a member of the State’s Santosh Trophy winning squad! I said fortunate, because I grew up in Vizhinjam, unlike its neighbours Pozhiyoor and Pulluvilla, a village with no football culture. I did it all with no coach or a sponsor, or a mentor, or any role model. Italian league matches on Saturday night TV and all the newspaper coverage Vijayan and Ancheri commanded those days lit a ‘football spark’ in me and I started running after, sometimes kicking too, a make-shift football in the beaches. It was a struggle to get noticed, but finally my will power prevailed. I think the worst for me was not having a mentor. A shoulder to cry on, a power to turn to for solace and guidance, a light to show me the right path!

(3) WHAT MAKES KOVALAM FC DIFFERENT FROM OTHER CLUBS?
For Kovalam FC football is not a business. Our priority is not winning trophies. We are more like an incubator: scouting for young talents, offering them healthy environment, good lifestyle and nutritious food besides regular coaching by dedicated experts; giving them an experience in professional basic structure. We even considered not fielding our team in any competitive tournaments. But, we couldn’t find any alternative to give our cadets match experience, which is very important in skill development. Kovalam FC is the only Club that does not make any profit.

(4) WHY IS GRASSROOTS IMPORTANT?
How could a tree survive without roots? To make a plant healthy, don’t we feed the roots?

Fortunately, AIFF does accept the importance of grassroots development. There was an all-India scouting. But of the 150 players selected, 60 were overaged! If now our junior team is reaping Asia-level recognition, it’s mainly because of our grassroots development. Kovalam FC has recognized its importance and launched our “Catch ‘em Young” campaign three years ago in partnership with a pre-school. It’s success, however, did not encourage many other schools. We approached over 50 preschools this year and got just one to sign-up. Kovalam FC does not make any profit of this either! This December we will hold a Baby Festival in our Campus, if we can get ten schools to participate. The major problem is that coaches specialized in this field are just not there. We solved the problem by getting Chris Abel, an Arsenal Coach and Patric here to stay for three weeks and train few of our coaches.

(5) IMPACT OF ISL
Blasters’ impact on Kerala was electric! ‘Manjappada’ whipped the gallery into an ecstasy. What more do players need to get inspiration in the ground with their boots on? Can you imagine what would happen to Kerala football if there are about seven teams competing in a KSL? We may even go back to being a “Football Nation” and finally get over the cricket mania! For the players too ISL may bring a change. The ultimate dream of a Kerala player has been a Government job! Now, ISL has proven to them that there is much more in their reach.

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