Solid Comeback, National Games gold: Kerala stuns Goa in beach football final
Kerala staged a comeback from trailing 2-4 to stun hosts Goa in the final of beach football and clinched the National Games gold medal.
Colva Beach, Margao, Goa: A partisan crowd of 1200 was shouting 'Goa, Goa' at the top of their voice as Kerala were struggling 2-4 in the second period of the inaugural beach football final at the National Games 2023 on Wednesday.
Kerala, however, soon reduced the margin, making it 3-4 in the final period and then poured in four goals and stunned the home crowd to clinch the gold medal.
The two strongest teams in the competition, hosts Goa and Kerala, reached the final, and both teams put up a thrilling show of beach football that enthralled the crowd.
Musheer TKB started the proceedings for Kerala with a goal in the second minute, but the hosts replied strongly with the crowd egging on. Goa skipper Pedro Gonsalves scored a hat-trick in the space of four minutes giving Goa a lead of 3-1.
Substitute Muhammad Unais pulled one back for Kerala but Goa continued to dominate the game.
In the final period when Kerala took the field, Goa had no idea what was waiting for them. Youngster Rohith Yeshudas equalised in the 25th minute to make it 4-4 and then Musheer TKB scored two more goals to make it 6-4 leaving the crowd and team stunned alike.
Richard Cardoz pulled one back for Goa but substitute Ali Akbar scored in the last minute to help Kerala clinch the gold medal.
Kerala is the best team in the country
The man behind Kerala’s resounding success is the coach Sashin Chandran who led the team from the sidelines and motivated the footballers even when Goa took a formidable 4-2 lead in the second period.
"We have beach football culture and that is the reason we are so good at this game," Sashin told The Bridge after the victory.
"There are 10 out of 14 districts in Kerala where there is beach football culture and there is no dearth of excitement among youngsters to take up this sport and excel," Sashin added.
Earlier in January, Kerala clinched the inaugural edition of the National Beach Soccer Championships in Surat, Gujarat, conducted the by All India Football Federation.
"I have been coaching this side since the 1st Beach Football Nationals conducted by the All India Football Federation in Surat last year. We performed well there and I knew we would do well here as well," said Sashin.
"If you look at this Kerala side, we have some talented players like Suhail, Mohsin, Sreejith, and Roy. I am sure this game will grow massively in the next five years if there are proper grassroots programmes,” he emphasised.
Beach Football made its debut at the 37th National Games and the event saw eight teams participating. The teams are coastal states of Goa, Kerala, Lakshadweep, and Odisha along with Delhi, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, and Punjab.
While Kerala and Goa won the gold and silver medals, the tiny union territory of Lakshadweep defeated Punjab to clinch the bronze medal.