Set the ball rolling

Memebers of Fit Rock Arena practicing rock climbing in their facility in Pallikaranai Vivekananda nagar . Photo: Shaju John   | Photo Credit: Shaju John

Remember when it was too hot or raining outside and you had to do your best to keep yourself entertained indoors? Even if it meant climbing up a cupboard, playing football with a rolled-up wad of paper or sprinkling powder on a mosaic floor and pretending you were an ice skater?

That last one sure led to some injuries. If you’re still complaining about the unpredictable weather, are inspired by the ongoing Euro 2016 and Copa America, and are bored of mall-hopping, Chennai has some interesting new spaces for fun activities. Put away that perennial complaint that there’s nothing to do in the city and check out this list.

Fit Rock Arena

What: Indoor rock climbing

Avid rock climbers themselves, Shyam Sundar and Sathya Narayan Prasad wanted to popularise the activity in the city. “The only locations we can do this outdoors are very far — like Manimangalam and Mamallapuram. And with the weather being the way it is, it is nearly impossible to get people to see how much fun it can be,” they say.

After quitting their respective jobs, they spent the last year putting together Fit Rock Arena in Pallikaranai. Being an indoor space, it allows people to indulge in rock climbing no matter what the weather. And even if it is a little out of the way, it is still more accessible than abandoned rock quarries outside the city.

The space features a 30-foot-high wall with around 16 different routes of varying difficulty. All the safety equipment is provided, and the coaches are hands-on. Each session begins with a warm-up, and apart from being just an activity, it is regarded as a fitness routine as well. There is a strength training gym attached, as well as a boxing ring. All of this is tied in with rock climbing as a fitness regimen.

Since they launched in May, they have been a popular destination for team building and corporate training events, apart from birthday parties — they have a mezzanine floor for the celebrations. They also have a 16-foot-tall mobile wall which can be hired for outdoor carnivals and the like. To popularise it across the city, they are already looking for franchises.

It is clear that both Shyam and Sathya are passionate about what they do. Ask them what the best thing about rock climbing is, and they say, filling in each other’s sentences, “It’s not just about the physicality of it. It also involves the mind. You have to plan where your hand or foot will go next. That’s what makes it so fascinating.”

Address: 360/4b, Vivekanandar Street, Vivekananda Nagar, Pallikaranai

Timing: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Monday to Saturday) and 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Sunday)

Tel: 99623 57035

Slip n’ Kick (Shiba Kurian reports)

What: Soap football

Imagine manoeuvring an object across your soapy bathroom floor. Well, that’s exactly what soap football is: a cross between traditional football, a Bouncy Castle and water wrestling. In addition to Brazil, where it originated, this variant of indoor football is today popular in Dubai, Lahore, Sri Lanka, Mumbai and Bangalore. Three childhood friends in their late 20s — Ahamed Jalaludeen, Ahmed Nooh and Arshad Arham — introduced the game at a rooftop facility in the heart of Chennai, in May this year. Incidentally, these young entrepreneurs are no football players. It was a casual invitation to a similar facility in the Middle East that got them hooked.

Players dribble the ball past their opponents across a soapy arena instead of a grassy turf, barefoot, to score goals. Save a handful of rules — like no touching the ball with hands, dribbling the ball with feet and two goalkeepers — soap football is not strictly rule-bound. The rest of the rules, “are up to the players,” say the owners in unison.

While the number of players can vary, here, there can be four players on each team. Safety gear such as knee pads, elbow pads, wrist bands and helmets are provided by the centre. Those who turn up on a whim can buy T-shirts and shorts, in addition to refreshments. Like all sports facilities, they feature lockers, toilets and changing rooms. “Today, people want to see and play more football. We banked on this trend. Besides, soap football is a perfect mix of competition and fun for those who want to try a relatively new activity in the city,” smiles Arshad. From corporate events to weekend/daily sport, their bookings have been growing steadily.

The charges and timings on weekdays and weekends vary. On weekdays, it costs Rs. 1,800 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and Rs. 2,300 from 5 p.m. onwards. On weekends, the game is charged at Rs. 2,300 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and Rs. 2,800 from 5 p.m. onwards.

Address: No. 144, Nungambakkam High Road (above Harley Davidson showroom)

Timing: 3 p.m to 11 p.m. (weekdays) and 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. (weekends)

Tel: 96000 81839/2833 2051

Game On

What: Terrace football and cricket

If you’ve dreamed of playing football under the floodlights, this is the place for you. Launched in April this year, the terrace-top gaming arena has a FIFA 5 size football pitch and two high-speed nets. While these kind of spaces have been around for a while in the country, this is the second one in Chennai, apart from Tiki Taka in Kilpauk.

Game On is run by the Samson Group, managed by Rajiv Sampat and Hamir Sampat, along with Mohammed Yusuf. The operational partners are Netz.

The football field here is approximately 5,500 square feet and the two cricket lanes are 2,800 square feet. “Apart from state-of-the-art artificial turf, safety precautions, high-intensity LED lighting, viewing gallery with over 100 seats, a cafeteria and separate changing rooms for men and women, we also have spider nets with a rebound twist to add a new dimension to the game,” says a representative for the sports arena. The spider nets ensure that the ball rebounds and stays in play throughout the game.

The cricketing nets have a bowling machine as well, along with lighting similar to that on the football turf. For those who miss their gully cricket days, you can also play an hour of tennis ball cricket on the football ground.

Playing on the brightly-lit turf with the faraway sounds of traffic below is quite an experience. There are hourly rates for groups that want to come in and play — advance booking is required — and the space is also used to organise corporate tournaments and as a practice field. Coaching and memberships are also available.

They start at 6 a.m. every day, and do take up 5 a.m. slots as well, unless there are any technical difficulties. The last running slot is 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Address: Samson Towers, 403, Pantheon Road, Egmore

Timing: 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. (all days)

Tel: 74016 46464 / 98409 72676

Kick Off

What: Street football

Rohit Ravindran was a regular fixture at ECR Speedway in Uthandi. The go-kart space also had a paintball field which was not being used.

“The owner of the place, Prithvi Reddy, is a good friend of mine. And he asked me if I would like to take over it and do something. That’s when the idea of bringing in street football came about,” he says. This was back in November 2014, and since then, several tournaments have been organised at Kick Off.

This form of football too is from Brazil, and is an informal version of the game with five players a side and 10 minutes of playing time. “Since it’s a smaller playing field, players are always on the move and it can get tiring. Which is why the playing time is lower, so that they don’t get exhausted,” says Rohit.

While groups can opt for an hour of fun-filled play, Rohit regularly organises tournaments, the details of which are up on their Facebook page.

The street football arena is a bit far from the city, but with the growing residential population on the stretch, it could see more growth soon. “There’s also a lot of interest in football as such right now, and if approached the right way, can be very good for business,” he says.

Address: ECR Speedway, Field No 1, Survey No. 3/481/A2 (Near Uthandi bus stand)

Timing: 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Tuesday to Sunday, closed on Mondays)

Tel: 99620 27377

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 6:27:46 AM |

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