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Adib Kenkre & football - A match made in heaven

21:58 EAT 26/12/2019
Adib Kenkre
A lifetime spent in developing 'the game of life' in a cricket-crazy city...

Shivaji Park in Mumbai is known to be the cradle of Indian cricket. Even today legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar take a pitstop at this hallowed ground to revive their adolescent memories of training. But Adib Kenkre decided that he would hold the first training session of his new-founded football academy, Kenkre FC, at this ground. 

"We were a bunch of passionate people who had formed this academy. We were good and we did not have the fear of losing anything. So with just nine players, we started training at Shivaji Park," recollects Kenkre, who was himself a midfielder and had represented Maharashtra at the national level. 

A former Central Railway employee, Kenkre's journey as a coach started with the Siddharth College in Mumbai. After getting done with his run-of-the-mill Railway job he would join the college students in the evening for a session of football. But soon he would join Don Bosco school, Matunga, and take over as the football coach at a time when the sport was being introduced as a curriculum for the very first time. 

But in a cricket-obsessed city which has produced some of the greatest in the game, very few were interested to take up football. But Kenkre's philosophy has always hinged on quality rather than quantity. 

The school authorities kept their faith in the man and with time they started winning silverware in various inter-school competitions.

"The best way to reach a family is through the mind of a child. Football was the agenda but the humane touch given to a child was the means to get him to football. It is more important to be a good human being than to be a good footballer. Also, the training sessions were not regimental. Proficiency in both studies and sports is always necessary, otherwise, parents would not want their child to play the sport," expresses Kenkre. 

From Don Bosco, he shifted to Bombay Scottish school after a change of his railway duty timings clashed with the training sessions of Bosco. With Bombay Scottish, he won a plethora of tournaments and even defeated his former employers twice in the same season. 

But, Kenkre sir always felt the need to reach out to a larger audience and spread the sport amongst the youth of Mumbai. Therefore, in 2000, he founded the Kenkre FC academy along with some of his former students. 

They had to operate on a shoe-string budget and advertisement for the newly-established academy was a distant dream. But word of mouth ensured swelled the number of cadets within a couple of years. 

"Still it was a monumental task to keep the academy up and running as we did not have any hope of getting sponsors in the initial years. Kenkre sir invested all his life's savings into football. I also pumped in as much as I could and along with a few other patrons, we were able to sustain the academy," recounts Joshua Lewis, who is the current CEO of the club and also one of the founding members of the academy. 

Lewis admits that training under Kenkre during his Bosco days changed him forever. 

"He likes to encourage young minds. Close to 50 years spent training kids. His motto was simple - 'You come and train with us you will be a good human being and a better player'. I have not seen him rest for a day. His passion and devotion towards coaching young players remains unparalleled," states Lewis, who just like his guru, has dedicated himself completely towards the betterment of the academy.

Kenkre FC has now six training centres across the city with close to 500 trainees. They have introduced a women's team and a string of encouraging results have ensured their participation in the next edition of Indian Women's League (IWL). 

"Kenkre Sir has always emphasized a bottom-up approach and that has helped us. We started from scratch and we are moving up. Hopefully, in the next decade, we can make it to the top tier." 

At 70, Kenkre hardly gets to visit his academy. But as Lewis puts it," his philosophy still remains a guiding light for us. The legacy continues."