Sevens football tournaments are like exciting rollercoaster rides for large sections football lovers in Kerala, particularly those in the Malabar region of the state.
They offer exciting end-to-end action inside smaller yet packed stadiums but there's also a looming injury waiting to happen due to the unbridled manner in which such tournaments are played.
The Sevens football games are mostly played on local grounds and not on green turfs. Also, it must be noted that these local Sevens tournaments aren't usually on the books of either the All India Football Federation (AIFF) or the Kerala Football Association (KFA).
So what if professional players in India, who have signed contracts with Indian Super League or I-League clubs decide to take part in such tournaments? They're taking the risk of pruning their professional careers.
A number of Kerala-born players have played in Sevens tournaments after the conclusion of the Indian football season. Ashique Kuruniyan (FC Pune City), Zakeer Mundampara (Mumbai City) and Anas Edathodika (Jamshedpur FC) are some of the high-profile stars who have taken the Sevens football field for several local teams in the state in April this year.
Gokulam Kerala's Usman Ashik has taken it one step further by playing Sevens football while turning up for the I-League club in the ongoing Kerala Premier League.
The participation of professional footballers in Sevens tournaments is something that has grabbed headlines in the state. Former Gokulam Kerala head coach Bino George had said, "As a professional coach, I can't accept their decision to play Sevens football.
"When the season ends, professional footballers need complete rest. Personally, I have also come up through Sevens but once you start your professional career, you should not return to Sevens. If they really wish to play Sevens, do it after retiring from professional football."
Imagine if one of these players get injured. In the money spinner that Indian Super League has grown to become for players, the loss of Ashique or Anas Edathodika (who's already been through an injury-ridden season) to injuries can be an abstruse scenario for their parent clubs and possibly, an embittering betrayal of their professional contract. But this is where the other side of the story kicks in.
These players feel inexplicable indebtedness to people behind the scenes in Sevens football. Players find it difficult in saying 'no' to a person who helped you out during the early days of your career. One of the best strikers the country has seen, IM Vijayan, has offered support for players participating in sevens tournaments and said that it is important that players don't forget their roots.
"I don't see anything wrong in professional players playing sevens football. Anas Edathodika is a footballer and he played football. I have played Sevens football in Kerala. Kerala has always produced footballers through Sevens," Vijayan told SportsGlobe.
When an Indian National team centre-back or a future superstar return to play football in their locality, it obviously generates interest in the region. But those who approach them should understand that these players are risking their professional careers to take part in a local tournament and give back to the crowd and managers for providing the launchpads for their careers.