The SB Football Academy (SBFA) Poovar, which has qualified for the final phase of the Manorama Sports Club Award 2022, is a football factory situated on the southern tip of Thiruvananthapuram. This football crazy coastal hamlet has seen many of its youngsters playing for Kerala in the national football championship for the Santosh Trophy and donning the jersey of top-level clubs in the country. They all started kicking a football around on this beautiful sandy beach.
After a modest beginning eleven years ago, the SFBA has so far produced 18 national players, around 50 state players, and two dozens of university players. Besides, departmental teams like the SBI and the KSEB are filled with SFBA's products.
In the recently concluded Santosh Trophy, there were three players nurtured by the SBFA in the Kerala squad. They were winger Nijo Gilbert, tournament's leading scorer with nine goals, forward John Paul Jose, and defender Beljin Bolster.
When Kerala were crowned champions in the 2021-22 edition of the tournament, Nijo was the player of the tournament with five goals and as many assists. Nijo and John Paul were also part of the Kerala team, which finished second, at the 2022 National Games in Gujarat. Rahul Raju, who won the Golden Boot at the Reliance Development League in Goa, too rose through the ranks of the SBFA.
The academy was founded by a group of young football enthusiasts on a small ground offered to them by the local church. Although the ground could be used to play five-a-side football, there were as many as 70 trainees in the beginning.
Later, local residents came together and raised an amount of Rs 1 lakh to build a proper ground for the club. In May, 2021, a portion of the football pitch was ruined by the Cyclonic Storm Tauktae, but it could not dampen the spirits of Poovar's soccer-crazy community.
The SBFA, which also owns a women's football academy, currently provides free training to over 300 aspiring footballers, including 40 girls, six days a week.
The fund for the academy's day-to-day activities is raised by conducting sevens football tournaments every year. Donations from the local community also help the SBFA nurture and develop football talents at the grassroots level.