Coach Rufus D’Souza, 88, Defies Age to Teach Football to Kerala Youth

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With the 2018 FIFA World Cup under way in Russia, many are examining the state of the sport in India anew. We take a look at what Rufus D’Souza, an 88-year-old football coach in Kerala, is achieving quietly and without fanfare.

Football coach Rufus D’Souza, 88-years-old, has obviously been keeping track of every single game going on at the FIFA World Cup in Russia this year. He does not believe crowd favourites Argentina or Brazil will win, simply because they are too focused on individual players. He is partial to Germany because the players function as a team and that is exactly what D’Souza teaches the 5-15 year olds he coaches come rain or shine at the Parade Ground in Fort Kochi every day.

This man, who started playing football at the age of 7 in the same ground and went on to become a coach at the age of 40, is so passionate about imparting his knowledge about the game to the youth that he is popularly known as ‘Football Uncle’ among the people of the area. Football is not the only game he plays though. In 1954 he captained the Travancore Cochin hockey team and from 1960 to 1968 he represented Kerala in both football and hockey.

Although Rufus never played at the national level, he has several students who achieved significant milestones. Some of his students include Kerala Football Association secretary P Anil Kumar, former junior Indian football team captain P P Thobias, former Indian national football team players Feroz Sherif and late Hamilton Bobby, and former FC Cochin player K Anson.

Rufus attributes both his longevity and his fitness level at this age first of all to his continued interaction with the young people who keep the spark and enthusiasm in him alive, and secondly to his disciplined habits. He goes to sleep at 9:15 pm every day and wakes up at 3:45 am, and also watches his diet.

Rufus feels there is a great need in India for coaches who nurture talent at the grassroots level. Although he is sceptical about the future of the sport given the current scenario in the country, he thinks the national team would benefit from playing against stronger opponents in the future.

Featured image courtesy: Madhyamam.

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