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I-League: How a 20-year-old hailing from an artisan family sculpted Gokulam Kerala FC's title dream

Emil Benny, hailing from Wayanad, scored a crucial goal that helped Gokulam Kerala FC take the lead and win the I-League championship with a win against TRAU FC.

Emil Benny file photo, Image credit: Facebook/Emil Benny
By Sreejith C R | Apr 2, 2021 | 2 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

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Gokulam Kerala FC’s entry in the I-League was for one simple goal. They wanted to play the AFC Championship in 2022. The 2020/21 season had seen Gokulam Kerala FC, TRAU and Churchill Brothers being involved in the title race. Gokulam Kerala FC conceded an early goal and for 70 minutes, it looked like their dreams would be crushed. However, in a spectacular turnaround, Gokulam Kerala FC trounced TRAU to be crowned I-League champions and also enter the AFC Asian Cup.

Emil Benny, the boy from Wayanad district in Kerala was one of the goalscorers in the final. Throughout the season, Benny has been the find of the I-League. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder scored three goals. He won three Hero of the match awards, including one in the title decider. Emil went on to win the Best Emerging Player Award and credits his success to head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese. It was the Italian who selected him for the senior team after seeing him play for Gokulam Kerala’s reserve team.

Emil went on to play a big role in the teams’ success. His attacking prowess and goal scoring instinct helped the team register a number of come from behind victories. This included one in the final match that gave Gokulam Kerala FC the crucial lead.

 “The coach always wanted us to play the attacking game no matter what the score was therefore even though we were trailing by one goal we had the confidence that we could comeback as we had done it before in the previous matches and the teamwork helped us to win the match and the title,” Emil said in an exclusive interview.

Hailing from a family of bamboo artisans

Emil hails from a family of bamboo artisans and was first spotted by the SEPT academy in 2009. He went on to play for the MSP academy, before being picked by GKFC technical director Bino George for the reserve team.

Emil has also played for the Kerala team in the Santosh Trophy South Zone qualifiers 2019. He scored three goals and led his team to the final. However, the main draw was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“Coming into the senior team, initially it was a bit difficult as the game is much tougher and quicker but slowly I was able to adapt to the conditions and coach helped me a lot and gave me the freedom to express myself while attacking and emphasized more on my defensive duties, which I had to work on,” said the 20-year-old midfielder. Like every other footballer, his dream is to play for the national team and he looks to be on track to fulfil his dream.

Gokulam Kerala’s I-League win will help galvanise football in the state. With the Durand Cup win also in their kitty, the future can only become better for Gokulam Kerala FC.



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