Bengaluru, January 10: Karnataka State Football Association president NA Haris played down the allegations of favouritism to get into the state's Santosh Trophy team, saying merit is the only factor that determines whether a player makes the final 20-man squad.
The KSFA hosted an undeserving player from Income Tax FC in its month-long training camp. Income Tax plays in the Bangalore District Football Association's A Division, the second-tier league in the city. Even in this squad, the player in question, Shivaprasad S, did not feature in any of their matches.
His entry into the 33-man probables raised some eyebrows but Haris confirmed that Shivaprasad has not made the final squad. "The player you are talking about has not made the squad," he said on the sidelines of the KSFA logo launch in the city. "Not just him, many people come with recommendation letters hoping to be part of the Santosh Trophy team. But in football, merit is the only deciding factor for a player to enter the final team. No undeserving player will represent Karnataka in the Santosh Trophy."
The final squad is yet to be announced with the KSFA saying it's awaiting a final approval from the All India Football Federation.
Even though the player has not made the final squad, his presence in the training camp itself is worrying. Shivaprasad, without starting any match of the A Division, trained with players from the BDFA Super Division sides for over a month.
Haris though did not explain how Shivaprasad was accommodated in the training camp. "We'll do it properly in a transparent manner," he said, diverting the question. "If there are any further discrepancies, we'll look into it."
Shivaprasad may not have made the final squad, but he hijacked a spot in the camp that could have been taken by a more deserving player.
South Zone Round from January 17
Meanwhile, the South Zone Qualifying Round of the Santosh Trophy will be held at the Bangalore Football Stadium from January 17-22.
Two groups of eight teams will play in a round-robin league format. The group winners will advance to the final stage of the Santosh Trophy. Group A consists of hosts Karnataka, Services, Telangana and Puducherry. Group B comprises Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andaman & Nicobar.
While certain sections of the stands will have entry tickets of Rs 100 and Rs 50, another stand will be open to the public free of cost.
"We are going all out to ensure the event draws full houses on all match days. All arrangements have been made according to the requirement of AIFF and all officials named by the AIFF will be supervising and officiating the matches," Haris added.
State last hosted Santosh Trophy in 1968-69
Bengaluru have never hosted any zonal leg of the tournament, which was launched in 2014.
Before the zonal structure, Karnataka hosted the tournament way back in 1968-69, when the state played as Mysore.
As Mysore, the state has won the tournament four times. Played at the Sree Kanteereva Stadium, Mysore beat Bengal in the final in 1969.
Playing as Karnataka, the state's best finish came in the 1975-76 Santosh Trophy, where they lost to West Bengal in the final.
Over the recent years, there are not many takers for the hosting rights of the zonal rounds. Calicut (Kozhikode) hosted the South Zone leg in Jan 2017, while Chennai hosted it in 2014 and 2016. Manjeri played host to the zonal round in 2015.
Karnataka's appearances in final
1946-47: Mysore bt Bengal 0-0, 2-0 in Bangalore
1952-53: Mysore bt Bengal 1-0 in Bangalore
1953-54: Bengal bt Mysore 0-0; 3-1 in Calcutta
1955-56: Bengal bt Mysore 1-0 in Ernakulam
1962-63: Bengal bt Mysore 2-0 in Bangalore
1967-68: Mysore bt Bengal 1-0 in Cuttack
1968-69: Mysore bt Bengal 0-0; 1-0 in Bangalore
1970-71: Punjab bt Mysore 1-1; 3-1 in Jalandhar
1975-76: Bengal bt Karnataka 0-0; 3-1 in Kozhikode