After seven years as part of the coaching staff of All India Football Federation (AIFF) from 2007-2017 and working at every age category of the Indian national team except the senior team, Narayana Menon is in the thick of things at FC Kerala.
Two games into the season, FC Kerala are top of their group with six points. They defeated Fateh Hyderabad and then hit three goals past Madhya Bharat to gain an advantage in a group consists of the reserve teams of Kerala Blasters and FC Goa.
Unsurprisingly, Narayana Menon, the team's Technical Director, is chuffed to bits at how the second division league has kicked off. "The start that we have got is one that satisfies the home crowd. For a team like us, it is important that we get such results at the start. Due to that, a lot of people have come forward to watch our games and support us," said Menon in an exclusive chat to Goal.
Of the people, for the people, by the people?
FC Kerala is a crowd-funded venture that started in 2014 and aims to reach out to the football fans in the state better than the predecessors who hit financial roadblocks.
"FC Kerala is an enterprise of the crowd. It is not connected to or owned by a specific company or group. Filling up stadiums is not the only thing that's important. Just like we see in Manchester or Munich, supporters should take the team to their hearts.
"That has been the issue for all the clubs that have come up in Kerala in the past. A group of people invest money and the team becomes their affair only. That should change and the club should become an affair of the people. That is our attempt," states the former India U-17 team coaching team member.
To facilitate this, supporters have the option of signing up for annual or lifetime membership that includes match tickets at discounted rates and various club merchandise.
FC Kerala have also taken tributes to the next level - "The club is also presenting honourary VIP memberships to male and female football players who have played for India at the national level and for players who have played for Kerala in the Santosh Trophy for minimum five years. They will never face an issue," said Narayana Menon.
The expansion, vision and ultimately Indian Super League
A company, named FC Kerala Sports Ltd., has been set up to realize the club's dream of a full-fledged sports academy. The discussions for a 'Sports City' will start at the end of May 2018.
"The main purpose of the funds is to build a sports academy. We are looking to buy at least 15 acres of land but it could go up to 30 acres. We are planning to build a sports city where all kinds of sports except golf is included," revealed the club Director.
Although FC Kerala are currently based in Thrissur, there are plans to move. They are mulling over a move to Malappuram, a football-crazy district in Kerala. "The wish is to expand FC Kerala. The district games will be played in Thrissur where the club is affiliated. Maybe we could play the second division league in Malappuram. We'll go to any place where we get support."
"The reason for naming the club 'FC Kerala' is to make it Kerala's club. The vision is to play I-League by 2020 and play Indian Super League as the 'football team of the people' by 2023."