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‘Santosh Trophy grooming ground for youth’

At a time when it is yearning for recognition in the absence of I-League players, former India captain I M Vijayan says the Santosh Trophy football tournament is the’perfect platform” for youngsters to prove their mettle. The quarterfinals of the 67th edition of the tournament start on Friday.

‘It plays the perfect platform for youngsters as the I-League players don’t play. It’s the perfect grooming ground,’ Vijayan, one of the finest players to have played the sport in the country, said.

‘Previously national team players used to play in the Santosh Trophy,’ the only footballer to have won the AIFF Player-of-the-Year award thrice, recalled.

Vijayan is delighted to see the tournament returning to Kerala, his native state, after a gap of eight years. The one in 2005 happened to be his last appearance in the tournament, once considered to be India’s best in the sport.

‘I need to pinch myself. The Santosh Trophy is back in Kerala! Kerala has a lot to offer to Indian football. I remember (Jo Paul) Ancheri was the captain in 2000 edition, and we played in front of a full house. It was a great feeling. Then in 2005 (in Kochi), it happened to be my last Santosh Trophy.

The response was excellent and the interest level is amazing,’ he said.
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