How Raman Vijayan is nurturing local football talent in Tamil Nadu
- Raman Vijayan, former India international, is honing local talent with his football academies.
- Sivasakthi and Kamalesh are the two graduates from Vijayan's academy to land two-year contracts from Bengaluru FC.
Raman Vijayan, former India international, has had a hand in Tamil Nadu football's recent upswing.
Teams and footballers from the state have tasted success in the last few years. Tamil Nadu based clubs Chennai City FC, Chennaiyin FC, and Sethu FC have racked up titles. Some players from the state have matured to be among the country's finest.
M. Soosairaj, Edwin Sydney Vanspaul, and S. Nandha Kumar have all earned call-ups to the national camp after proving themselves for their respective clubs. I-League winners with Chennai City FC in 2018-19, M. Regin and A. Romario have won titles this campaign with ATK and Mohun Bagan respectively.
Three Tamil Nadu-based clubs are doing well in their respective leagues. However, the absence of the Chennai Super Division League remains a worry for the future of Tamil Nadu football, says former India footballer Raman Vijayan:
"It was a springboard for players to get into the ISL and I-League. The absence of the Chennai League is a huge concern for Tamil Nadu football, and for me personally as well. But, participating in the AIFF youth leagues have given relatively good exposure to TN youngsters," he added.
As the lack of financial support has hampered many a football career, Vijayan has established a football academy, aptly named Noble, in Karaikudi to cater to the needs of players from poor backgrounds.
Vijayan's football academies are nurturing local talent
The 46-year-old Vijayan has been polishing some raw talent from the hinterlands of Tamil Nadu. Collaboration with SDAT helped the former India international support his trainees' education, food and kits.
The Noble FA, founded by Vijayan, moved to Chennai three years ago. Several trials are conducted across various districts to handpick youngsters for Vijayan's football academy.
S. Pandiyan and Mayakkannan, former trainees at Noble, ply their trade with Chennaiyin FC and Gokulam Kerala respectively. Vijayan sounded excited at the progress of players emerging from his Noble FA academy:
"Talented players should get opportunities and exposure. Scaling back to 2009, I started Noble FA in Karaikudi. I'm glad that Noble FA could produce players like Mayakkannan and Pandiyan. I'm proud of their progress."
Vijayan has also set up another football school in his name. Promising players from the Noble FA were roped early on while trials were also conducted across Tamil Nadu to select youngsters afresh for the former India international'snew academy.
Raman Vijayan Soccer School (RVSS) trainees, Sivasakthi and Kamalesh, proved their mettle in the Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS) and AIFF Elite League to land a two-year contract with Bengaluru FC reserves.
When asked about the progress of the two, the ex-Delhi Dynamos Assistant coach said: "Sivasakthi joined us (Noble Academy) in Chidambaram when he was pretty raw. He's a natural goalscorer, and his record over the last three years speaks for itself. He knows that signing for Bengaluru is another big step, but he is still grounded and obedient. Kamalesh is another extraordinary talent, just like Sivasakthi. You don't get wingers who can cut in and score many goals. But, he does that with ease most of the time. He's looking forward to his Bengaluru stint as well."
Sivasakthi's impressive finishing fired him to the top of the RFYS tournament in the 2018/19 season. In the last three campaigns in the AIFF Elite League, the youngster has found the back of the net 49 times from just 36 games.
Over the last three years, Sivasakhti, who has been averaging almost more than a goal per game, said about Vijayan:
Sivasakthi remembers Vijayan's guidance with gratitude. "Vijayan sir has assisted me on and off the field. He gave me scholarship and I'm proud to have learned the craft from him. I feel very happy to have signed for Bengaluru FC. I can't explain my happiness. Once again, Vijayan sir has played a huge role in my career," he added.
Kamalesh is versatile. His ability to play on the left wing and also as a creative midfielder has caught attention of many coaches. He received plaudits for his superlative performances in the RFYS and AIFF Elite League.
The youngster completed his 10th grade in Dindigul before shifting to Chennai to be part of the Raman Vijayan Soccer School.
"Vijayan sir has not only helped me on the football side; he has also supported my education. He has always been taking good care of me since I joined the academy. Coach Rajan annan has always been helpful, on and off the field. They motivate us all the time. Bengaluru are one of the biggest clubs in India, and to be able to represent them would be a honour. I want to work hard and achieve more."
Both Sivasakthi and Kamalesh say that Sunil Chhetri is their idol.
According to Kamalesh, it would be a dream to play with the current Indian skipper at Bengaluru FC:
"I have always looked up to Chhetri. He has been my idol since my childhood and I owe my love to Indian football to him. Never in my wildest dream did I imagine that I would get a chance to meet him. Now I have an opportunity to meet him or play alongside him. I'm looking forward to it," he added.
Parag Shrivas, Leon Augustine, Edmund Lalrindika, Myron Mendes and Ajay Chhetri are some players who have graduated from the reserve side to the Bengaluru first team. The likes of Sivasakthi and Kamalesh from Vijayan's football academy would emulate them if they keep working hard.