Cricket might dominate the streets and beaches of the city.

But for a number of youngsters in north Chennai, especially Vyasarpadi, football is closer to their hearts. Now, they have a reason to cheer with two playgrounds in the locality all set to be upgraded with amenities.

Vyasarpadi, popularly referred to as Chennai’s Brazil because of the passion for the game, has a number of football clubs. Children from these clubs have participated in several tournaments, including international ones. The need for better playing conditions has been long felt.

The Chennai Corporation has taken up work to upgrade the two playgrounds in Mullai Nagar and Samandhipoo Colony — in two phases. Officials say the playground in Mullai Nagar is being improved at a cost of Rs. 32 lakh, while the one in Samandhipoo Colony is being developed at Rs. 45 lakh.

“Children come to the playgrounds in Mullai Nagar and Samandhipoo Colony for their daily practice games. But these playgrounds lack proper playing conditions,” says N. Umapathy, secretary of Slum Children Sports Talent Education Development Society, which has been training several children in football.

“We have been asking for the development of these playgrounds for years and met officials, including the commissioner of the Corporation. We are happy these playgrounds are being improved now,” says Umapathy.

Around 200 children — including 40 to 50 girls — from areas in and around Vyasarpadi, such as J.J. Nagar, Samandhipoo Colony, Kalyanapuram, MGR Nagar and Udhayasuryan Nagar, train in football at these playgrounds.

A Corporation official says: “We are upgrading the playground with a lot of amenities. In the first phase, we are constructing washrooms and changing rooms. The ground will also be improved.”

Meshes will be put up to prevent the balls from being thrown out of the playgrounds and floodlights will be provided. Water supply connection too will be given, he says.

In phase II, later, the Corporation proposes to lay astro turf on both grounds.

Football players excited

The improvement work has excited young football players in the neighbourhood. M. Umashankar, a resident of Udhayasuryan Nagar, has been playing football for three years and recently represented the city at a tournament in Ramanathapuram.

“I regularly come to the playground in Mullai Nagar at 6 a.m. but it lacks several facilities, including toilets. Developing the ground is definitely good news as it will draw more children to football,” says the class IX student.

Another player, C. Thyagarajan, a resident of Kalayanapuram, says, earlier, the playgrounds were misused and dirty. “We started to play here and the situation started to change slowly. If a turf ground comes up here, it will be like a model ground. There are several football enthusiasts here and the new facilities will definitely boost interest among children,” he says.

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