The National Finals line-up has been finalized, with both Karnataka and Kerala joining the party
It was the last day of the zonal stage of the 36th Under-15 Coca Cola Cup, with the final of the South Zone being played at Payyanad Football Stadium in Manjeri on Monday. And it turned out to be a comfortable win for Karnataka, who defeated Kerala 3-1 to enter the National Finals riding a wave of confidence.
Monish G opened the scoring for Karnataka in the 12th minute, and he further doubled the lead for his side in the 48th minute. Any hopes of a Kerala comeback were dashed when Vijay T scored a third goal in the 72nd minute to help Karnataka go 3-0 up.
Kerala scored a consolation goal courtesy of Adarsh A S in the 87th minute, but it was always going to prove too little too late for them.
Sachin K. Pradeep of Karnataka was awarded the Man-of-the-Match for his sterling performance, while Jawad P P of Kerala was declared the player of the tournament (South Zone).
About the Coca-Cola Cup
The Coca-Cola Cup has a rich history of unearthing football talent from India. In 2008 Coca-Cola joined hands with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and signed a sponsorship deal of three years for the Coca-Cola Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy (the National Under-16 football championships).
In 2012, the championship was re-named as ‘The Coca-Cola Cup’. The competition has grown tremendously in the last few years, with the number of participating players rising all the time.
The event has helped football in India grow from the grassroots and has raised awareness about the importance of a healthy lifestyle among youngsters.
The Coca-Cola Cup is played at three different levels - the district level, the state level and the national level.
District level: At the district level, inter-school matches are held across 106 cities, and the best players from these matches are given a chance to play at the state level. Camps are held for these select talented players, who then go on to form the respective state teams.
State level: The state teams, selected in part from matches held at district level, compete in the Zonal Finals (North, West, South, East and North-East). The top two states from each zone progress to the National Finals.
National level: The top 10 state teams from the five zones play in a group format. The top two teams from each group then qualify for the semi-finals of the tournament, ultimately leading to the crowning of the National Champion State.
The U-15 Coca-Cola Cup acts as a talent scouting ground, with AIFF officials carefully monitoring the progress of the players at the state and national levels. The hand-picked players are enlisted as probables for the Indian national U-16 team, which is a dream-come-true for any aspiring professional footballer in India.