It is no secret that Kerala is a hotbed of football in the country. From passionate fans to quality players Kerala has it all. The state keeps on producing extremely amazing players. 22 year old Shibil Muhammed is one of the latest names in this list. IFTWC recently had a conversation with the youngster on his journey so far. The midfielder hails from Malappuram, the district which breathes football and the craze for the sport in the district is astonishing.
Malappuram district is part of the Malabar region where the famous sevens football is played. Shibil explained how sevens football helped his progress. “I am proud to be from Malappuram, most of the footballers and fans in Kerala are from my district. Sevens football is like a carnival here. Even though its mostly played in Malabar everyone one in Kerala knows about it. It helped me grow as a player. I still play sevens football in my village.”
Being born amidst football fanatics Shibil had an early introduction to the beautiful game. Growing up, sevens football was a huge inspiration for him. Shibil used to play regularly in sevens football tournaments in his village. Impressed by his talent, Mohun Bagan came calling. Shibil’s first taste of professional football was at Mohun Bagan. The youngster represented the Mariners U-18 side. In 2019, Gokulam Kerala secured his services for their reserve side. Fascinated by his talent Gokulam swiftly promoted him to their senior side.
“I have been playing football since the time i remember. Sevens football and the players who used to play in it inspired me a lot. My first professional experience was with Mohun Bagan, I played for their U-18 side. Switching to professional football wasn’t easy for me. I couldn’t concentrate on my education and my game simultaneously. Playing for Mohun Bagan was an amazing experience. There i got the chance to play under experienced coach and got to play against some very good clubs. Mohun Bagan had a huge role in improving me as a player.
Shibil made his senior team debut for Gokulam in the Durand cup which was reinstated last year. He expressed his delight on being part of Gokulam’s triumph.
“Playing for Gokulam was very exciting. It was like a dream come true for me. Winning the first ever tournament I played in my senior career was a special feeling. It was a memorable night and I still can’t forget the celebrations after the win.”
Shibil suffered a hamstring injury in the final of the Durand Cup which kept him on the sidelines for a long time. he missed all the preseason matches including the Sheikh Kamal trophy and the opening matches of I League. after his recovery shibil made a terrific comeback, becoming Gokulam Kerala’s top Indian goalscorer. When asked about his performance Shibil replied, “I missed a lot of matches because of injury but still I am happy with my performances and our wins. As a footballer it’s natural to have good days and bad days. I like to remain positive and work hard. My aim is to be consistent and play more matches next season. I want to win the I League.”
“Playing under coach Santiago Varela was good experience. He likes young players and is always ready to give them chances. I can play many positions but he wanted me to play Attacking Midfield which worked. I respect my coaches, every coach has their own tactics and playing style. I want to do well under every coach i play in my career.” Shibil said when asked about the Spaniard.
The 3+1 rule is set to by implemented in the I League from next season. The youngster lauds AIFF’s decision. “It is a great opportunity for players like me to play and train with them. Playing with and against foreign players have improved me a lot as a player. All foreigners i have played with are top quality players. But having 5 foreigners in each teams affects the playing time young players like me get. So I think this new rule is very good one”
The quality of referees is an often discussed topic in Indian football. many players and coaches have lashed out at Indian referees. there has been many instances were wrong decision from the referees made teams drop crucial points. Gokulam Kerala also faced similar problems. “Bad decisions from the referees affected some of our results. everyone makes mistakes but still wrong decision hurts very much. i think the league should bring good quality and more experienced referees.” He opined.
Both Kerala and Kolkata are heavyweights of Indian football. both the states have rich heritage and passionate fans. They have been producing the country’s finest footballers for decades now. Shibil Muhammed has played in both the states. When asked about his experience of playing in both the states, he said, ” Everyone knows Kerala and Kolkata have the biggest number of fans for Indian football. I would like to go back and play in Kolkata as it was an amazing experience. But playing in Kerala is best for me because to play for a team from your state with your friends and family cheering from the stands is the best feeling in the world.”
The Indian Super League has become ‘THE’ league now where every Indian player dreams to play and Shibil is no different. “I am happy at Gokulam but I would to like to play in the ISL. I hope i will receive offers from ISL clubs in the future. My aim is to play in ISL which is the first division league in the country.” He signed off.
The whole IFTWC team would like wish Shibil Muhammed all the very best for his future.