After Netaji SC in 2008-09, another private club Arrows FC has emerged champion in the senior division league. How did the team manage to pull off this victory?

At a time when ad-hocism rules football administration in Chennai, it is refreshing to witness the emergence of a private club as the senior division league champion. Not since Netaji SC, in the 2008-09 season, has another private team attracted as much interest as Arrows FC in recent times in the local league. While a chunk of the credit for this has to go to the players, the people behind the club cannot be overlooked — coach K. Thiagarajan and his friends C.N. Murthy, P. Manivannan and S. Chakravarthy who guided him.

 What binds them is their passion for football. Thiagarajan, once a player, had been team in-charge on various occasions.  He was responsible for title wins as a player, and later was associated with the victories against other teams in different divisions in the Chennai league. “I never thought I would, one day, help a team win the senior division crown,” admits Thiagarajan in the aftermath of what he believes is a landmark moment in his short coaching career. He has an NIS coaching degree, apart from the experience of attending an AFC youth development course in Bengaluru.

Turning coach 

As a player and stout defender in his office team (he works for Indian Overseas Bank), Thiagarajan learnt a lot about the ground realities and this came in handy when he decided to extend his sports career as a coach.  Running the Harrington Academy was his first big step and for this he is thankful to K. S. Sridharan, physical director, Pachaiyappa’s College, who allowed him use of the college ground — a luxury in a city where there is an acute paucity of playing grounds. Once the academy got going, Thiagarajan got his next big opening — a chance to coach the son of Lankalingam, chairman and managing director, Lanson Toyota Group. “I am convinced our coaching efforts and way of running the academy appealed to Mr. Lankalingam, who offered us all assistance,” says Thiagarajan with a twinkle in his eyes.

 “When my friends and I decided to buy a CFA league club (Brighton SC) in 2002, we barely managed to pool the required money running to nearly a lakh of rupees. Thereafter, it was Mr. Lankalingam who was our guiding light, to the extent that he even renamed the club Arrows,” recalls Thiagarajan.  For a private club funds play a crucial role; once that was taken care of, the team progressed gradually. After remaining relatively low-profile for a few years, Arrows got a fillip with foreign recruits. As Thiagarajan says, “Our aim was to encourage local college talent (read Pachaiyappa’s), even as we fortified the side with foreign and other state players. Two Nigerians (Morgan Justice and Joel), and a couple of Bengal and Kerala players gave the team added strength to perform better,” he said. The team proved its worth by bagging the league title. 

 Without financial support, everything would have remained a dream. Now that the team has come up trumps, the aim is to bag more titles. “We must try to get into the National second division league, and gain more experience playing in tournaments.  In Tamil Nadu, unfortunately, opportunities are few, barring the league. We hope to participate in competitions outside the state,” says Thiagarajan, on a confident note. Thanks to its generous sponsor, Arrows club could well set a benchmark for football in the State.

Thiagarajan is all praise for his wife Hema, a teacher, whose support and encouragement have gone a long way towards enabling him to focus on his dream project.