They might not be the poster boys from Bankstown like Steve and Mark Waugh, but are the only twins in the I-League. Shy, yet resilient, meet Mumbai FC midfielders Anees and Aseem Kovaliyadan.
Born in Malapuram, near Kozhikode, in a family of seven they decided on a career in football when they were 15 or 16. But in a state with 100 per cent literacy, such desires can be frowned upon — and was. This despite having uncles making a living from the beautiful game.
The situation called for excellent time management skills and looking back, the brothers don't think they have done too badly. Anees, the younger one by 20 minutes, graduated in economics, and Aseem has a Master's degree in commerce.
Now 26, the twins have done part of the club circuit having played for Vasco, Salgaocar, Mahindra United before joining the I-League babes. Anees also works with the Kerala State Electricity Board and said lack of time prevented him from completing his post-graduation.
Aseem prefers the left side of the midfield and Anees the right. Their on-field chemistry has improved with time. "We have been playing for so many years and whenever at the same club, have also been roommates. We constantly evaluate, even criticise each other," Aseem said. Aseem started against Mohun Bagan and played for 61 minutes and Anees had come on as a substitute in the second half.
Playing in Kolkata and for India remains a dream but for the moment, the focus is entirely on Mumbai FC, a club they say is more organised than most in India. "David Booth is a good coach and everything gets taken care of here," they said.
Why Kerala keeps slipping and away in domestic football had to be asked given their place of origin and it seemed Aseem was waiting for it. "There is absolutely no money there. No wonder clubs like Viva Kerala have been relegated to second division. There is a lot of potential but we can't tap it. Kerala is still the same - we just need the attention and I'm sure we can come up again."