New Delhi: On Thursday, when five-time champions Goa kicked off their Santosh Trophy campaign at Kochi, hardly one thousand spectators watched the tie.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) decision to bar the I-League players from playing the national championship has taken the sheen out of the tournament.
Interestingly, several unauthorised seven-a-side tournaments, held simultaneously in different towns of Kerala, are drawing far bigger crowds than the Santosh Trophy now. With no one to monitor these tournaments, a number of I-League players are turning out here for unregistered clubs in search of instant money.
“Since the I-League have been given a break on February 11, at least 15 to 20 I-League players have arrived in Kerala to play these seven-a-side tournaments. More are expected in the next few days… They are being paid Rs. 5,000 to 10,000 for playing each match,” a source in the Kerala Football Association (KFA) said.
The players involved in such tournaments are from clubs like Prayag United, Pune FC, Mumbai FC, ONGC, Sporting Clube de Goa.
While several second division players are also there, some under-17 and under-20 World Cuppers from some African nations could also be spotted.