Eight clubs have qualified for the final phase of the Manorama Sports Club Award 2022, instituted by Malayala Manorama in association with Santa Monica Study Abroad Private Limited.
The three finalists for the prestigious award will be announced soon. The first-prize winner will be given away the Manorama Sports Club Award and a cash prize of Rs 3 lakh while the second and third place winners will be awarded trophies and a purse of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 1 lakh respectively (tax rates applicable).
The eight top contenders were chosen from among hundreds of applicants from all over the state. An expert panel, comprising P I Babu, joint secretary of the Athletic Federation of India and a member of the Kerala State Sports Council, former footballer and renowned coach T A Jaffar, and ex-Indian volleyball team captain and Arjuna Awardee Tom Joseph, visited each of the eight shortlisted clubs and evaluated their performance.
The track record of the applicants, their contributions to the development of sports in the area of operation, conduct of events at local level, participation in non-sporting activities, and training programmes organised by them during the period were taken into consideration before selecting the eight contenders.
Here is a quick look at the shortlisted nominees for Kerala’s biggest sports award.
Nattika Sports Academy, Thrissur
Established in 2014, the Thrissur-based Nattika Sports Academy focuses on unearthing young talents and honing their skills at grassroots levels. Athletes from the academy have so far won as many as 86 medals at the national level. Long jumper Ancy Sojan and sprinter P D Anjali, who are currently training at the national athletics camp, are products of the Nattika Sports Academy. Most of the trainees are from the rural areas of Thrissur district.
Union Handball Academy, Annanad
Union Handball Academy in Annanad near Chalakudy has developed a reputation for producing players of real quality. Established in 2011 at the Union Higher Secondary School at Annanad, this is the second consecutive year that the academy has found a place among the shortlisted nominees for the Manorama Sports Club Award. So far, hundreds of products from the academy have represented Kerala at national-level tournaments. In 2022 alone, as many as 34 trainees of the academy participated in national-level championships. Every year, the academy conducts a summer coaching camp in the month of April to unearth young talents.
St George Volleyball Club, Vazhakulam
Founded in 1942 by a group of volleyball enthusiasts at Vazhakulam near Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district, St. George Volleyball Club has gained prominence over the years and become a force to reckon with. Over the last eight decades, the club has grown into a major force in Kerala's volleyball arena, thanks to its visionary patrons and experienced coaches. The club has constructed an indoor court, pooling money from its members, where volleyball enthusiasts from the locality could train for free. The club has been conducting a state-level volleyball tournament every year without fail. As many as 160 children took part in the summer coaching camp organized by the club last April.
Lord's Football Academy, Kochi
The Kochi-based Lord's Football Academy is committed to boost grassroots football in the region and unearth hitherto unknown talents for the future. Last year, as many as 27 boys and girls nurtured by the academy represented Kerala at national football championships in various age categories. In 2022, Lord's Football Academy was crowned champion of the Kerala Women's League and qualified for the Indian Women's League.
Rural Coaching Centre, Neduveli, Thiruvananthapuram
Neduveli, a small village in the Vembayam panchayat near the state capital is known as Kerala's kho kho hub. Founded in 1978, the club has produced many talented kho kho players and has done a lot to popularise the sport in the state. Apart from kho kho, the centre also imparts training to children in kabaddi, badminton, netball, archery and tug-of-war. It has produced as many as 10 international players and 50 national-level players. Currently, around 75 children are undergoing training at the Rural Coaching Centre.
SBFA Poovar, Thiruvananthapuram
The SB Football Academy at Poovar, a fishing village on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, aims at nurturing and developing football talents at the grassroots level. So far, the SBFA has produced one I-League player and four Santosh Trophy players. The club provides free training to over 300 aspiring footballers, including 40 girls, six days a week. The funds for the club's day-to-day activities are raised by conducting football tournaments with active participation of the local community.
Mahatma Sports Academy, Kottarakkara
The Kottarakkara-based Mahatma Sports Academy does not own a proper ground, but overcoming such challenges, it has become one of the top coaching centres in the state. The academy, situated at the heart of the Kottarakkara town, currently provides specialised training to 150 children in the 9-16 age group in various disciplines. Several academy products have been absorbed by hostels run by the Kerala State Sports Council and various sports schools in the state. The academy is also active in campaigns against drug abuse and charity programmes.
Pulari Swimming Club, Vembayam, Thiruvananthapuram
Vembayam in Thiruvananthapuram district is a major swimming hub in Kerala and the Pulari Swimming Club is the torchbearer of aquatic sports in the area. Many international water polo players, including A A Archa, who captained the national women's water polo team, and A S Anand, a member of the Indian team which won bronze at the SAF Games, rose through the ranks of the Pulari Swimming Club. The Kerala water polo teams for the 2022 National Games in Gujarat had six women and three men who were nurtured by this modest club. Over 200 children are currently undergoing training at the club.