Published: Dec 14, 2021
Source: The Indian Express
At the start of this year, Priyank Panchal was one of the standbys for India’s home Test series against England. Even as the teams moved to his home city Ahmedabad for the last two Tests of the series, Panchal was released to play for Gujarat in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. On Monday, when he finally made it to the Indian Test squad proper for the tour of South Africa as the injury replacement for Rohit Sharma, Panchal was following a familiar routine.
Published: Dec 1, 2021
Source: Times of India
Lewis finally sees his dream come to fruition with Kenkre in I-League
MUMBAI: Ever since fulfilling his dream of going on to manage a football club, which he first expressed in an English essay he wrote in standard 5, Joshua Lewis has had to endure his fair share of tough moments as director of Kenkre Football Club.
It's why, a couple of months ago, when Kenkre FC narrowly lost out on top spot in the Hero I-League qualifiers to Rajasthan United after a goalless draw between the two on the final day of the competition in Bengaluru, Lewis took the setback, the latest in a number of failed attempts at barging through the doors of what was once the top division of Indian football, in his stride.
And then fate delivered an early Christmas present 10 days ago when the All India Football Federation (AIFF) League Committee handed Kenkre a spot in the upcoming edition of the I-League at the expense of Chennai City, who were barred from competing after failing to comply with most of the mandatory AIFF club licensing regulations. "Chennai City are actually former champions but things didn't work out for them. Times are such when things can be pretty challenging. Basically it was a surprise," the 39-year-old Lewis told TOI.
Anyone familiar with Kenkre's 21-year rise up the ladder of Indian football will have no trouble appreciating what this opportunity represents for them, and indeed, the city considering that the 2016-17 season was the last I-League campaign to feature a Mumbai club when the now defunct Mumbai FC were involved. This, after all, is a club Lewis, when he was only 18, co-founded along with his former coach at Don Bosco High School, Matunga, Adib Kenkre, with the primary aim of ensuring young talented players did not give up football and could continue playing as a group. To sustain the initiative, players themselves would contribute Rs 100 which, Lewis said, would go towards post-practice snacks or a train pass for any player who couldn't afford one.
The demands, of course, began to grow once Kenkre progressed through the Mumbai District Football Association league divisions. "When we moved into the Elite division, we realised we need better players to sustain ourselves, and we would have to give them some money because at that time there was Mahindra, Mumbai FC, Air India, ONGC, all the big guns," Lewis said.
Having witnessed the rise and demise of clubs like Mahindra United and Mumbai FC, Lewis knows each milestone in Kenkre's journey brings with it its own share of pitfalls. As the team coached by one of their homebred products in Akhil Kothari steps up preparations for their maiden I-League campaign, which will kick-off within a bio-bubble in Kolkata from December 26, Lewis is tasked with the challenge of raising funds to the tune of Rs 1.5 crore which he reckons will be needed to get through this season.
"Resources we generate at this juncture are not enough to sustain the ILeague team but we are in the market looking out for sponsors," he said, adding: "The journey ahead is not going to be an easy one. It will draw upon a lot of things. Finances are going to be an issue. The standard set will be much higher. The most important thing is to keep going, and to keep firefighting at every juncture until we have enough support in terms of good sponsorships, bigger corporate support etc. But I'm sure that the people of Mumbai and Maharashtra will not let us down."
For the boy who dreamt of managing his own club when he was just 11, if there is one art Lewis has mastered along his inspiring journey with Kenkre FC, it is to keep going!