Kochi: It was an incredible moment when three generations of football players came together during a felicitation ceremony for the Kerala football team organized by Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil, Chairman and Managing Director, VPS Healthcare. The football legends united under one roof for the presentation of Rs1 crore announced by the NRI entrepreneur to the Santosh Trophy-winning team.
The event was a joyful reunion of the state’s finest footballers, both old and new, who have taken Kerala football to new heights. Former Santosh Trophy-winning captains – Kurikesh Mathew (1993), V. Sivakumar (2001), Sylvester Ignatius (2004), Rahul Dev (2018) – and other legendary players, including I.M. Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri, and Asif Saheer, graced the occasion. Anitha Sathyan, the wife of former Santosh Trophy-winning captain late VP Sathyan, and former football coaches T.A. Jaffer and M. Peethambaran were also present. The 1973 championship-winning captain late T.K.S Mani’s family members, who couldn’t attend the event, conveyed their wishes to the gathering.
The cash prize of Rs1 crore was handed over to the winners by VPS Healthcare India Head Hafiz Ali Ullat and VPS Healthcare Corporate Communications and CSR Head Dr. Rajeev Mangottil.
Kerala captain Jijo Joseph said, “We had intense training sessions. Thanks to our head coach and other coaching staff for their continuous support. I feel that a selfless interest in sports guides decisions like these, which will lead to the growth of sports in the country,” he said, thanking Dr. Shamsheer for the surprise announcement before the final.
It was a treat to watch Mr. Vijayan greet the winning team. The legend, who played for Kerala and West Bengal in Santosh Trophy and captained the Indian team, said, “We are happy that Dr. Shamsheer has honoured us veteran players and coaches. I don’t think this has ever happened before. It makes me feel proud.” An emotional Mr. Vijayan also requested the entrepreneur to start an academy at the grassroots level in Kerala. He requested Dr. Shamsheer to set up a football academy in Kerala pointing out an example of an academy set up in the past in Qatar which shaped leading players for the country.
The players who scored goals for Kerala throughout the tournament were also honoured with a cash prize of Rs. 10 lakh.
According to Dr. Shamsheer, acknowledging the contributions of the sportspersons would encourage them to achieve more. “It is the collective responsibility of society to recognize their hard work. Victories are not made in a day. For all seven title-winning performances, the players put in a lot of effort. I believe this get-together will document those efforts and lay a strong foundation for the future of football in the state,” he said.
“I would like to thank Dr. Shamsheer for giving me an opportunity to share the stage with football legends. This prize money is a motivation, and I am sure more people will come into sports with this kind of support,” said team head coach Bino George about the cash reward.
The organization also honoured the former coaches and captains with mementoes and special gifts.