Bengaluru, January 7: A player from the city's local division league threatened this correspondent when asked about his back-door entry into the list of probables for the Karnataka Santosh Trophy team.
The Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) was forced to snub a player who had creeped into the Santosh Trophy camp after procuring a 'recommendation letter' from the Income Tax Sports Association.
Shivaprasad S, the player in question, did not even feature in the Playing XI of the Income Tax team, which plays in the Bangalore District Football Association's (BDFA) A Division - the second-tier league. Yet, he somehow was squeezed into the Karnataka state team' probables list for the upcoming Santosh Trophy Senior National Football Championship (South Zone Round). He was even part of a month-long training camp at the Bangalore Football Stadium for the 50 probables, which was pruned down to 30.
A post shared on Facebook by Akhilesh Bhat, a right-back for Income Tax, read: "Shivaprasad is arguably one of the worst players I have ever played with. He can barely kick the ball straight or pass it accurately beyond a couple yards. Even the worst C-Division team in Bangalore would think twice before having him in their squad. Now all of you must be wondering how he managed to get into one of the top-most and most competitive teams (Income Tax) in Bangalore? Hint: His father, Sethuram, is the Secretary of Income Tax Sports Association, Bangalore.
"We chose to look the other way and be silent about this because we thought of merely keeping him in the subs and not affect our chances. But what made all this even worse, and forced me to write this post is that the same guy, without ever having played even amateur football in the city, has been selected for the Karnataka Senior State Camp for Santosh Trophy. He is currently in the camp going on in Bangalore. Almost all of us met this news with wide-eyed disbelief and shock. Most players spend their lives trying to improve their skills to be able to represent their state or India, but this guy got this without putting the least of efforts."
'Which area are you from?'
When asked for a response, Shivaprasad threatened this correspondent. "Who are you to ask me for an explanation? Write whatever you want. You will get a call from 10 minutes. Which area are you from? Be ready to face the consequences. I have recorded everything you have said."
The final 20-man squad will be announced this week. However, following the allegations of favouritism, a source in the Karnataka State Football Association said Shivaprasad will not be included in the squad that will represent Karnataka at the Santosh Trophy, which will be held in the second week of January.
"When NA Haris, the president of the KSFA and the Shantinagar MLA, conducted a meeting with the coach and support staff of the Santosh Trophy team, he asked the officials if they have managed to get the best players in Karnataka for the team. He further told them they should not accept any recommendations and choose players for the final squad only on merit. This fellow will definitely not make the final squad," the source said. Harish, the Students Union coach and an A Licence holder will be announced as the team's coach. Muralitharan, an ex-ITI player, will serve as his assistant.
KSFA treasurer AD Nagendra assured there is no favouritism in the Santosh Trophy team selection process. "I am aware of the situation," he said. "The selectors will take a final call this week but what I can say is that nobody will get into the final team on the recommendation of others."
He, however, did not explain why Shivaprasad was taken into the training camp, thereby denying another deserving player of a chance to be part of the selection camp. Nagendra is after all part of the selection committee of the Karnataka side.
Why do they do it?
A player can obtain employment in the public sector units (like Income Tax, RBI, AG's office etc) through the sports quota if he has represented the state in a national competition. Even if the player does not feature in the Playing XI and just in the 20-man squad, he's eligible for employment in government offices (state or central). Many see the Santosh Trophy national competition as a way to seek employment in these units.
Additionally, Bhat questioned the attitude of the KSFA officials in developing football in the state after their cover-up. "There have been cases in the past too where someone has got in through a recommendation letter," he said. "My fight is not against Shivaprasad. They may reject him in the final squad but why was he allowed to be part of the state camp for a month? Even if he doesn't make it to the final squad, he will be kept as standby, which is good enough to get him a job. Another deserving player could have easily filled his spot and tried to impress the selectors into making the final squad. Because of people like Shivaprasad and the reckless attitude of the KSFA officials, merit, which should be the only factor to select a team, loses its worth.
"It's appalling that they just easily get away with this. I just want to make everyone aware of the kind of administrators we have for the sport," he added.
Santosh Trophy is a national football championship organised every year by the All India Football Association. This year, Bengaluru will host the South Zone qualifying round of the event in the second week of January. The top two teams from South Zone will qualify for the national play-offs. Goa are the defending champions.