National Games: Gujarat’s first football international to come to Ahmedabad to cheer his ‘team’

Almost 30 years after he became the first footballer from Gujarat to represent India, CV Sasi will make the long trek from Kerala to Ahmedabad to watch and motivate his former state in the 36th National Games here.

“I owe everything to Gujarat,” the defender was quoted as saying by the organisers. “I will be there at the National Games and I am hoping to watch the football final,” he added, without mentioning the two teams that he would want to see play that match.

Sasi, who joined Kerala Police in the mid-Nineties, might be living 2,000km away, but his heart continues to beat for Gujarat.

“I had made many friends during my stay there and I am hoping to reconnect with some of them at least,” the former stopper back said in the release.

Sasi, 56 years now, had moved to Gujarat in the mid-80s at the invitation of a cousin to play for the IIM-A football team as a ‘guest player’.

He recalls how he had struggled to make ends meet with the stipend he earned for playing football. But Sasi’s luck changed when IIM became the Ahmedabad League champions, a denouement that led to him being invited to the camp for the State team for the Santosh Trophy.

He went on to play in four National championships, the last one as captain.

Sasi is delighted that the National Games are being held in Gujarat for the first time and expects this to give sports in the State a massive boost. “It will do wonders for Gujarat football, and other sports too. I expect to see the State making great progress in several disciplines,” he predicted.

Sasi’s crowning moment came when he was selected in the India squad for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Beirut and Seoul in 1993. India were placed in a pool that included Lebanon, Hong Kong, South Korea and Bahrain.

Coached by Czech Jirí Pešek, and captained by that indefatigable defender, the late VP Sathyan, the team included stalwarts like IM Vijayan, CV Pappachan, Bruno Coutinho, Tejinder Kumar and Aqueel Ansari. India did not make it past the group but won the Fair Play Trophy in the Asian Zone.

Sasi also accompanied the ‘Blue Tigers’ to Pakistan for the first 1993 South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) Gold Cup in Lahore and returned with the trophy. In all, Sasi won 10 National caps, six in the World Cup qualifiers and four in the SAARC tourney.

It will be a great homecoming for Gujarat’s first international footballer. It is also his way of showing his gratitude to the state that made him a national player, if not a megastar.

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