A woman footballer & para cricketer are local body poll stars in Malappuram

UP Jamsheena, PR Vishnu. Design: Onmanorama

Jamsheena was hailed as a dependable defender who would thwart marauding rival attackers with skill, power and athleticism during her playing years.

She was a regular feature in Kerala’s women football arena for more than 17 years till she called it quits in 2018.

Two years later, in 2020, she made her debut in politics. She is now contesting the local body election from Kerala’s Malappuram municipality as Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate.

A woman footballer & para cricketer are local body poll stars in Malappuram
LDF candidate from Kalambadi in Malappuram municipality U P Jamsheena juggles football during a break from the election campaign. The former Kerala player is taking on UDF’s Rasiya Abdu. Photo: TA Ameerudheen

Jamsheena continues to be a defender in the electoral arena. For, she is defending the Kalambadi Division (Ward No. 15) that her father-in-law UP Majeed had won from traditional rivals United Democratic Front (UDF) five years ago.

Majeed, who is a local leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), had stunned Indian Union Muslim League’s (IUML) A Ayoob by 56 votes to win the seat in 2015.

The UDF has entrusted IUML’s Rasiya Abdu to avenge the defeat and regain the ward, considered to be its citadel, this time.

The enormity of the task at hand has energised 26-year-old Jamsheena. She has been working tirelessly ever since the Left coalition announced her candidature a month ago.

A woman footballer & para cricketer are local body poll stars in Malappuram
Election posters of Jamsheena and her opponent Rasiya Abdu at Kalambadi in Malappuram district. Photo: TA Ameerudheen

She says the skills she learnt from the football field come handy in the electoral battle.

“Challenges make me stronger. It is a trait I achieved from the football field,” says Jamsheena.

Hailing from a Muslim family in Vallikkunnu in Malappuram district, Jamsheena began learning the nuances of football at the age 11 from a coaching camp in her gram panchayat.

Her commitment to the game, willingness to learn and humility caught the attention of the selectors, and she easily found her way into Kerala’s Under-16, Under-19 and senior women’s teams.


After completing Class 12, she joined Mar Thoma College in Tiruvalla for higher studies where she completed post-graduation in economics. During this time, she represented Mahatma Gandhi University in the inter-university championships. In 2015, she led Pathanamthitta to the title in the inter-district women’s championship. In the same year, she played for Kerala in the National Games held in Thrissur.

The Kerala Football Association honoured her with the Best Women Footballer of the Year award in 2017.

Jamsheena started as a striker when she took to the game. “But the coaches who analysed my skills deputed me to handle defence. But in politics, I am donning the role of a striker,” she said.

Jamsheena, who moved to Malappuram after her marriage with Shameemsad, said she decided to contest the election to continue the developmental activities initiated by her father-in-law. “Besides, I have plans to bring in many new projects. I will give due importance to women empowerment if I win,” she said.

A woman footballer & para cricketer are local body poll stars in Malappuram
Former Kerala footballer UP Jamsheena is contesting the local body polls from Kalambadi Division in Malappuram municipality for the LDF. Photo: TA Ameerudheen

Para cricketer Vishnu raring to win

In Vattamkulam panchayat, which lies 45km south of district headquarters of Malappuram, para cricketer PR Vishnu is getting ready to hit his opponents for a six on his debut in a major political game.

Vishnu is the opening batsman of Kerala’s para cricket team for the inter-state championship.

Vishnu had lost his right hand in an accident when he was just five years. But he learnt to live with his left hand. And the southpaw made his way into the State cricket team.

A woman footballer & para cricketer are local body poll stars in Malappuram
PR Vishnu. Photo: TA Ameerudheen

Now, the 23-year-old wants to continue his winning streak off the field too.

Vishnu is the United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate in Kanthalloor ward. He is up against LDF’s Sudhakaran and BJP’s Mohanan.

In 2015, LDF wrested the ward with a 265-vote margin. This means Vishnu has to sweat it out to eke out a win.

Vishnu was the leader of Kerala Students’ Union (KSU) - the students’ wing of the Congress - when he pursued Bachelor’s degree in Commerce at the Minority Arts and Science College in Padinjarangadi.

A woman footballer & para cricketer are local body poll stars in Malappuram
Vishnu checks the quality of the paddy in his field in Kanthalloor. Photo: TA Ameerudheen

“I was the president of the KSU unit at the college. I also served as the chairman of the college students’ union,” he said.

But Vishnu prefers to be identified as a cricketer. “I am a cricketer first,” he said.

Vishnu played inter-college cricket tournaments before being selected to the Malappuram district para cricket team. Good knocks in the inter-district championships earned him a call to the State team.

A woman footballer & para cricketer are local body poll stars in Malappuram
Vishnu takes a break from the election campaign and plays cricket with his friends in Kanthalloor. Photo:  TA Ameerudheen

Early this year, Vishnu scored a 22-ball 50 in an inter-state match against Hyderabad. He went out for a duck in the match against Madhya Pradesh.

Apart from cricket, he is good at javelin throw, discus throw, shot put and swimming.

A woman footballer & para cricketer are local body poll stars in Malappuram
PR Vishnu (standing, second from right) is the opener for Kerala para cricket team. Photo Courtesy: Kerala Disabled Cricket Association

Little wonder, then, that Vishnu is taking the electoral battle as a true sportsperson.

“We should give our best and the results will follow,” he said.

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