KPL?? What is KPL Pune (Kothrud Premier League)? Six years ago Sarthak and Anmol thought as to why Football is less popular in India when it is perhaps the most popular game in the world. Almost all the progressive countries love playing and watching football. So why is India not on Football map?
This resulted in the birth of Kothrud Premier League (KPL), Pune with a simple goal in mind; to promote football at grassroots levels where teams get to enjoy the game and spectators get to watch. On top of that, teams get to play competitive football with added bonus of getting a fair fighting chance to have a go at glory.
One fine day whilst playing a match against a bunch of kids from the neighbouring society, a very irregular thought struck Sarthak. Sports is not just an exercise but it is a huge social enabler that binds us together and teaches a lot about life. So why not increase its reach?
It then started with a thought of making people play the most beautiful game, ‘joga bonito’ more regularly and in an organized manner. With a view to make KPL a sporting fiesta for football and not just any other tournament, KPL managed to be the pioneer in the city (probably even the country) to host this unique style of football.
KPL has never gone into marketing of the event. It is completely based on a word-of-mouth publicity due to the sheer quality and excitement that it delivers. It has witnessed football, not just KPL, evolve in the past six years drawing out a niche for itself. It is evident from the fact that it started as 6 teams with 60 players which now stands at 40 teams with 700 players in 6 years.
Utilizing the resources Sarthak and Anmol had in their reach, they started to nurture the sport in the city. And the sheer love for the sport went into making Kothrud Premier League six years ago. Of course it was not an easy road to tread. It needed hard work, dedication, vision, managing people and above all passion. All this and a lot more ensured the success of KPL.
The venue for this League for the last three years has been Shri Mahavir Jain, a prime location, just minutes from FC road and right next to Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, Pune. But as a constant endeavour to improve, there are greater plans for the venue and organization of the event for the future.
KPL follows its one of a kind 7-a-side format that extends to all its 4 divisions. It is a league format which lasts for over 4 months. Close to 700 players participate in KPL each year between the age group of 18 to 25 years with matches are held only on the weekends and holidays. League commences in January each year and concludes in May. The rules for the league follow all rules that apply to the European style of football thus making playing all the more exciting. The games are scheduled way before the season starts allowing the players to plan their weekend accordingly. Around 40 teams participate in the league every year, each team comprising nearly 20 players.
Not just that, but teams are on a waiting list when it comes to registration. It has not only seen teams from Pune but in the past it has also seen a few teams from the northern region of Maharashtra, players from Aurangabad who travelled just to play football.
Of course, KPL had its share of failures in the event, from which they have learnt and moved forward. To exactly know what the players want is important. They watch the European games every year and want to live that too. They play against friends and take friendly matches against their neighbouring societies and want to feel good about it. KPL makes them feel good about their game by giving them an array of teams to play with. It is these players that motivate KPL to give its best. And their best wishes at the end of each game day and end of the season makes the KPL team perform even better. Looking back at the six seasons, Sumit ‘The Captain’ of KHS having played all the previous season quotes, “Football teaches a lot about life. It teaches us to have patience in whatever decisions we’d take, and here we do that week in week out.”
“India Khelega” cried out an onlooker when Akshay Nair pulled tricks on the Premier League defenders. Little did anyone know that Nair would in fact actually play for the nation one day.
Yes, Akshay Nair, the Premier League striker is selected for the Futsal India team. Another player from KPL, Nikhil Mali, aka Pikya also got selected to Liverpool FC youth academy. Rugved Yeole in another such player who is now playing for the i-League club Air India. KPL believes in bringing talents from the grassroots levels, from each and every corner of the city, then passing on that talent to responsible hands of the Pune registered club thus making it to be a scouting arena for teams. It provides the players a platform for showing their potential making them ready for the future, a future with football as their prospective career option.
Getting the players ready at a very young age is an apparent option in the sports field, KPL does just that.
From upsets to amazing wins, comebacks to losses, teams have seen it all and they still have more left to see. Some quotes from the players :
“It is exciting as fair-play is observed while playing all throughout the tournament.” - Nemesis former captain, Siddhesh who retired from the league two years ago due to age limit. He is still seen on the sidelines waving instruction to his team mates, taking more of a manager role.
“We wait for the season to kick-off every year. Those four months in the league are the fastest that we spend playing it here at KPL.” - Padwal, the playmaker of Magik who instrumented their second successive league victory last season.