Children in other parts of town may be crazy about cricket, but when it comes to Austin Town, soccer is king, says football coach Andrews
Often dubbed the ‘mini Brazil’ of the city, Austin Town is soaked in football culture — football came to this part of the city in the British era, and simply stayed there.
No other sports thrives in Austin Town like football does, and the greats of the game such as I. Arumainayagam and the exciting present crop such as R.C. Prakash, Noel Wilson, Srikant, Don Bosco and many others are the products of Austin Town.
Several former State footballers live around the famous Austin Town Football Ground (now known as the Nandan Football Ground), and among them is the State coach, Joseph Lucas Andrews.
Fifty-one-year-old Andrews take pride in his Austin Town roots, saying “kids in other parts of town may be crazy about cricket, [but] when it comes to Austin Town, soccer is king.”
Andrews started playing the game as a youngster, like many Austin Town children. He played for the State senior team Army Base workshop in 1978, moved to the LRDE outfit in 1980, and later joined the ITI Sports Club in 1982, where he remained until 1996. He has played for the State junior and senior teams, and holds the distinction of being a part of the Karnataka team that won the B.C. Roy Trophy junior football title in 1979-80 as a player, and then again as a coach in 2008-09.
Now, Andrews spends most of his time coaching youngsters at Nandan Football Ground. “I have 25 boys training under me, and I wish to make them national-level players,” he said.
His programme, which is held in the evenings, has a rigorous schedule involving two-and-a-half hours of fitness training, game skills and tactics.
Rain or shine, he prefers to be there at the grounds with his boys right through the year, overseeing their progress. “Nothing gives me more joy than watching them grow in the game.”
Shifting the goal-posts
But the going is not so smooth for Andrews and his boys, as the ground has been under repair for the last year. “It poses a huge problem for us as our training area has been reduced to half its size and we are forced to train without goal-posts,” he says. The local councillor, K. Shivakumar, has been taking an active interest and is helping renovate the ground, says Andrews.
Another major hurdle is the lack of sponsorship for his programme. “We need a lot of support, like equipment and kits. The boys also need a proper diet,” he adds.
Despite the growing popularity of football in the country, Andrews laments the fact that India languishes at the near-bottom of the football rankings. He strongly feels that there should be many club-level national tournaments. “There are simply not enough tournaments for the 20,000-odd footballers,” says the veteran coach.
“We have the talent, and I don’t see any reason why India cannot emerge as major force in the game, with the right kind of support,” he concludes.