First all-India football title: Calicut University celebrates a special golden jubilee

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The Calicut University Senate Hall will be awash with sweet memories on Tuesday. Memories of a feat achieved 50 years ago.

It was on October 19 in 1971 that Calicut won the all-India inter-university football championship for the first time. For the young university — it had come into existence only three years earlier — it was a fantastic moment; the victory made the front page of regional dailies.

Members of that victorious team, coach C.P.M. Usman Koya and manager C.P. Abubacker will be honoured at a function on Tuesday. Four from the team would be missed: K.P. Ratnatakaran, M.R. Babu, C.S. Sasikumar and Dinesh Patel are no more.

The others — Victor Manjila (captain and goalkeeper), A. Abdul Rafeeque, K.P. Pradeep Kumar, K.C. Prakash, P. Poulose, M.V. Davis, N.K. Suresh, P. Kunhi Mohamed, P. Abdul Hameed, P. Asokan, E. Ramachandran and M.I. Mohammed Basheer — will be there.

Victor, who went on to keep goal for India, has vivid memories about the victory.

“The South Zone and all-India tournaments were conducted at the University Ground and there were big crowds to watch us play,” he told The Hindu. “More than 10,000 people had bought tickets to cheer us on from the temporary stands.”

Calicut emerged champion after drawing with Gauhati University 2-2 in the last match.

“We had a great team and we played the 4-2-4 format,” he recalled. “Striker Basheer was the Player-of-the-Tournament. Another striker, Babu, also scored several goals.”

Victor said Calicut’s win was celebrated across Kerala. It was also the first major achievement for Kerala football. The State would win its first Santosh Trophy two years later; five from the University team — Victor, Paulose, Ratnakaran, Hameed and Basheer — made it to the Kerala team.

“After winning the varsity tournament, we were felicitated at a function in which Vice-Chancellor M.M. Ghani was the chief guest,” he said.

“At that function, on the advice of Physical Education Director E.J. Jacob, I requested the VC that members of the team be granted grace marks as reward for winning the trophy,” Victor revealed.

The request paved the way for the practice of awarding grace marks to achievers in sports.

“After Calicut, other universities in Kerala also adopted that policy,’ he said. “Members from our team also benefited.”

After that maiden triumph five decades ago, Calicut went on to win the all-India football title nine more times. It also contributed to Indian football several outstanding players, like U. Sharaf Ali, C.V. Pappachan and Jo Paul Ancheri.

Pappachan and Ancheri will also attend Tuesday’s function.

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