Fun with the flying disc

Photo: R. Ragu  

They call themselves the Ultimate Frisbee family. So, when Chennai’s Airborne Chicken Pox team won the OrangeScape Chennai Heat this year after an intensely fought match against Fly Wild (also from Chennai), all the other teams celebrated with loud cheers and generous applause. This is the second consecutive win for Airborne Chicken Pox at the annual National Beach Ultimate Frisbee event held at Elliot’s Beach, Besant Nagar.

Ultimate Frisbee is one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in the world and what makes it special is that there are no referees/ judges involved here. It’s all about Spirit Of The Game — the players themselves have to sort out their differences on the field and they are only happy to help each other out. 

For instance, the first runners-up Fly Wild had almost withdrawn from the tournament as they didn’t have enough female team members. According to the new Tournament format, men-to-women ratio should be 4:3. “Things weren’t working out as we had planned. We found it difficult to find enough female team members, and we had plans to withdraw. It was then that other teams, including Airborne, helped us find female teammates,” says Viji Aravind, a member of Fly Wild, a team where 13 of the 20 members hail from underprivileged backgrounds.

“Most of them live in the slums in and around Besant Nagar. When we used to practise at the beach, they’d often watched us play. Arun Kumar, a flower seller was one of them. He would keenly observe us and even fetch discs. Then we asked him to play with us one day and he turned out to be good. We trained him and now he is a vital team member,” says Viji.

Arun went on to teach the sport to his classmates, with the help of Fly Wild members. This year, the Class IX students of Olcott Memorial Higher Secondary School formed a team of their own, Face-to-Face, which comprises youngsters between the age group of 13 and 15 years.

For many kids whose families are dependent on Elliot’s Beach and its surroundings for their daily income, Ultimate Frisbee has become more than just a sport. Meet the Varutha Padatha Valibar Sangam (VPVS) boys. Inspired by the 2013 Tamil release, these kids belonging to the Urur Kuppam area in Besant Nagar, formed a group to promote the sport. They became a part of Airborne in 2013 and played Agni Nakshatra, a Frisbee tournament for beginners which they won. They formed an integral part of Airborne’s maiden Chennai Heat win last year and now are part of Pudiyador’s extracurricular  activities. 

Pudiyador is an NGO that works with less-privileged kids. “VPVS boys also teach Ultimate Frisbee in schools,” says Chiai Uraguchi from Japan, who has been playing with Airborne for the past three years. She has been working in the social sector and is now associated with Pudiyador.

While Airborne Chicken Pox and Fly Wild were considered to be the teams to watch out for, it was a team that came together at the last-minute that took everyone by surprise. Confused Mango Pickle, a pick-up team with a mix of players from different cities were not only the Bronze Pool Runners-Up, they also won the coveted Spirit Of The Game (SOTG) Team Award. Twenty five-year-old Vivek Pandya, the captain of the team, says, “The team was formed 20 days before the tournament. Playing in Chennai is always exciting and I wanted to participate. I put up a post on Ultimate Frisbee India to invite players. Back in Mumbai, I spoke to other players and they too pooled in some players. By the end of it, we had players from Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Goa, the U.S., Canada, Europe and Venezuela.” Pick-up teams are common in Ultimate Frisbee. “We were just enjoying the game and had no expectations and that worked for us. Since we had to play on sand, some of us practised on Juhu beach,” says Vivek, originally from New York but currently residing in Mumbai. 

Amidst all the celebrations, the players and organisers were satisfied with the focus on girl players. “We all talk about gender equality, and Ultimate Frisbee is a step in that direction. It is the first time we are playing by international rules,  where out of seven players on the field, a team has to have a minimum of three female players. People were very keen to see how it turns out. The results were great. People who think women aren’t fast enough, should watch Ultimate Frisbee,” says Uraguchi.

As the competition concluded, the players and organisers had one last task left — cleaning up the beach. Post the final, they were seen collecting waste in plastic bags ensuring that the sands of Elliot’s Beach remained clean. 

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 7:14:00 PM |

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