2015 : a year of dream, change, progress – and success
Soccer is viewed by many as a major sporting event in the world. The game of football has resulted to skill development in many nations across the globe and has contributed in enriching individuals. Besides, sport in general and football in particular have emerged as a single unifying factor, even in the moment of political, ethnic and socio-religious tension and feuds. Nations across the world have united behind this game. Football has bridged racial divide and brought people of other nation into a union of oneness.
Most youths are ready to defy some of the challenges prevailing in the world today such as unemployment and economic hardship, which has reduced them to the level of desperation. Most of them have given up hopes and have buried their talents and indulge in activities such as drug abuse, gangsterism and banditry. It can therefore not be argued that idleness breeds crime and other numerous malpractices that can only lead to the destruction of individuals and their communities.
The Little Flower Football Academy (LiFFA Trivandrum) was founded in June 2015 as a residential Football academy for young talented players hailing from the coastal belts of Trivandrum and Kanyakumari by the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum.
In a Trivandrum and Kanyakumari coastal villager’s context, there are numerous challenges still predominant in most of its villages such as Eraimanthurai to Neerodi and Pozhiyoor, Poovar, Puthiyathura, Pulluvila and Adimalathura and around city: Valiyathura, Kannanthura, Vettucadu, Veli, Thumba, Palliythurra, St. Andrews, Mariyanadu colony, Puthukuruchi and Anjengo. This is because the desire and zeal to conquer and be number one has unfortunately not been matched with opportunities and facilities to nurture their skills and talents. It is in this context that Trivandrum Archdiocese has created the LiFFA in pursuing its zeal to transform the lives of the budding Coastal villagers’ talents. This project is forming a fully residential Football academy exclusively for coastal villagers.
About 5 years before opening the academy, the meetings and discussions had already started including football experts, educationists, representatives of various clubs from the coastal region, officials from Latin Archdiocese and was held under the initiative of Very Rev. Msgr. JAMES KULAS. Fr. James Kulas was influential in transforming the meetings into an academy by imparting a sense of direction to the proceedings. By 2013 a tournament was organized by Latin Archdiocese at VFA Valiyathura with 32 academy teams aged U-13 functioning under each parish clubs and it was named the “LADDER CUP”. The LADDER CUP was conducted for scouting and finding untapped talents of our coastal region. From over 600 players who attended the LADDER CUP, 60 were selected for a high performance residential camp under the guidance of former Indian International Mr. Mathew Varghese and Mr. Thobias.
But it took another 2 years of hectic meetings, discussions and debates before sanctioning the residential academy by His Grace Most Rev. Dr. SOOSAPACKIAM. M (Archbishop, Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum). It was Archbishop Dr. Soosapackiam who had named LITTLE FLOWER FOOTBALL ACADEMY in reverence of St. Little Flower the patroness of Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum. A core committee was formed under the guidance of Very Rev. Msgr. Dr. THOMAS J. NETTO who became the first Director of LiFFA Trivandrum. Fr. Thomas Netto was the man who turned these dreams into realistic objectives and it was his vision that has brought LiFFA to where it is now. And a technical team was also formed to look after the selection process and all other technical aspects of the academy. The academy was registered under The Travancore-Cochin Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Act, 1955, with Mr. Davidson. L as the President, Mr. Reagan Alex as the Secretary, Mr. Cleofas Alex as the Technical Director and Mr. Jude Antony was appointed as the Manager. Very Rev. Msgr. Wilfred E. took charge as the Director of LiFFA in 2019, which became the golden season wherein LiFFA as a team and the players individually won innumerable accolades from all over the country. The positive influence that Fr. Wilfred has had on the academy is ever noticeable from the development of LiFFA as an organisation. The knowledge he imparted during the founding of the academy has been crucial in taking LiFFA to where it is now. But ever since he became the director, LiFFA is being guided forward towards the goal of building a sporting facility of international standards. And with his drive and vision LiFFA is bound to achieve its dreams.
The selections of the players for the academy were done by dividing the proposed region into 4 zones and from over 500 boys who attended the zonal trials, 50 players were selected for the 10 days residential camp under the guidance of former Kerala Santhosh Trophy team coach Mr. PK Rajeev and from this, 26 players born in 2002 were selected for the academy’s first batch. The first batch of the academy was admitted in 8th grade of the St. Vincent’s High School, Kaniyapuram for the academic year 2015-16. The Latin Archdiocese had to spent over Twenty Lakhs on the building for accommodating the academy recruits, and they provide free nutritional food, education, playing kits, transportation, insurance, etc.,
The academy players train under the guidance of AFC “A” License holder Mr. CLEOFAS ALEX and Assisted by Mr. Vincent. D and Mr. Fredy Jose (AFC “C” License holders). And former Kerala Santhosh trophy team Goal Keeper Mr. Sreeju S. is acting as Goal Keeper coach. The academy was first trained by AFC “A” License holder Mr. Bijesh Ben, in 2015-16 when Bijesh had went on to become AFC coaches instructor the present technical team took over. Within 5 years of LiFFA’s formation the academy was able to contribute 2 Indian International Players, 13 National players and 36 state players. The LiFFA had won almost all of the tournaments it had entered and many instances have had to beat teams fielding players older than them. We have remained the district champions in the prestigious Subrato Cup since 2015and in the year 2018-19 there was a remarkable performance by our LiFFA Under 14 Boys that in Subroto Mukerjee competition and we beat fancied teams in its way to the finals & uphold the Kerala State Championship. In a way we created that event as heartbreaking news for the entire spectators in the arena. It also had a massive impact and made a great support by the management, sports hearted persons, well wishers and parents for the LiFFA boys under 14 to step into the next level of the Subroto Mukerjee International Championship held at New Delhi. Also we consecutively finished second time in Kerala state city level champions for the All India Reliance Youth Cup in the name of St. Vincent’s High School in 2017-18 &also in the name of St. Joseph’s HSS Trivandrum in the year of 2018-19. As of now 48 players are there in under the academy’s residential set up ( 23 players in Under -18 and 25 players in Under – 14 boys). The U-14 players stay in the Monvila residential facility and study at the St. Vincent’s High School Kaniyapuram. The U-16 players stay in the Catholic Hostel and study at St. Joseph’s HSS, Palayam, Trivandrum.
Ongoing success story of liffa boys
Most of the players that represented Trivandrum at the Kerala Sate (Youth) U -14, U -17 and U -19 Championships came through the LiFFA Academy. The LiFFA produces more players than any other academy in the state. Since 2015, Trivandrum district’s U-14,U-17 & U-19 squad of 16 players had 6-10 coming from LiFFA academy. LiFFA academy keeps providing players since the Associations constantly require footballers to represent State and District in age group tournaments.
The LiFFA Academy as a whole has sowed the seeds yielding the best results, which has ensured a blissful future for professional Football to continue on the firm grounds. Since 2015, it has proved to be a very splendid one with the appraisal of young players who came saw and performed at their maximum potential. They triggered and guarded the honor of our academy through their memorable achievements.
EBINDAS YESUDASAN and SHIKKU SUNIL has been twinkling stars of LiFFA shining brightly over the horizon as they gallantly guarded the honor of the academy by representing Indian national team for Asian Football Championship in U -16 and U – 18 respectively. To date, 13 players from the LiFFA Academy have represented Kerala State team and 36 players have represented Trivandrum and Pathanamthitta district teams in across all age groups. Thus keeping the flag fluttering proudly over the horizon.
“Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but they spend preparing in the hours, weeks, months and years for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character.”
The selection formation by ladder cup.
The goal of the academy is to offer an opportunity for maximal development of talent in youth through training and nurturing of their talents in football, in the junior, cadet and senior categories. Most of the players are usually identified through Ladder Cup competitions and Parish Club’s playing arenas. The Ladder Cup is conducted exclusively for Parish Clubs lying in the above said proposed area, for identifying the recruits for the next academic year i.e, the ladder cup is conducted among 7th graders for recruiting players to their 8th grade. More than 1000 players play in the tournament representing above 40 parish clubs, the most promising 150 players are selected from this lot for the first stage of the yearlong selection process. Frequent short time nonresidential zonal campsare used to further reduce this to most talented 50 from the 150. A 10 day residential camp is provided for these 50 players under the direct guidance of LiFFA technical team along with all the amenities and facilities of LiFFA. Moreover, the objective is to establish an exchange visit program between the LiFFA and Sports Institution and training centers for coaches and players all over Trivandrum.
The coastal area is a fertile land for football, but remote chances for proving their talents is a hindrance as the area is rural and especially in the under developed areas of rural district where attention of the media or the politicians happens once in a blue moon. The potential within the region would be more than enough for proper growth of our coastal Football.
If the current rate of development goes on for another 3 years, LiFFA can field a title contender in I-league fielding players only from the coastal region.