How can anyone forget those three goals! Three gunshots from the same leg that derailed the Railways and brought the Santosh Trophy to Kerala, for whom it had been hard to win. That dream hat-trick made the short T.K. Subramanian of Kannur the state's ever-beloved Captain Mani. No other game need to be cited to show what Mani meant for Kerala. He became the Pele for hundreds of thousands of football fans in the state.
1973 December 27
The finale of Santosh Trophy 16th edition. Maharaja's Ground was teeming with thousands who had traveled from all over the state to watch the battle as Mani led the Kerala team in to face three-time winners Railways. Thousands elsewhere were glued to the radio.
Railways was a star-studded team that needed to win for prestige while Mani's Kerala had nothing to fear in a loss. Mani and his boys were aggressive right from the start. In the 38th minute Maharaja's Ground saw the first stunner when Mani smoothly headed into the Railways net a cross from Najmudeen. Kerala thus led 1-0 at half-time.
Railways hit back and netted twice in the second half. But Mani's magic saw the equalizer in the 65th minute when he shot in a cross from Jaffer. As the match was nearing end the rivals were tied at 2-2.
In the 80th minute Mani's magic worked again as he netted amid a melee near the Railways goal.
It was an evening of celebration as Mani, the captain who led his team to victory with his own magic, held the Santosh Trophy high and kissed it. He had scored seven goals in the tournament and shared the top scorer honors with Karnataka's Shanmugham.
Kerala had played against Karnataka, Delhi and Manipur in the league rounds. Coach Simon Sunderraj had replaced Mani with Xavier Pius in the match against Manipur. However, he did not repeat that.
Kerala edged out Karnataka 4-3 to enter the quarterfinals and drubbed Andhra 5-1 in to set up a semifnal clash with Maharashtra, whom they beat 2-1.
Players in the champion team got Rs1,000 each. Mani, credited in every sense with the victory, also received the G.V. Raja Award.