Blacktown football club empowers players of North Chennai

For young boys and girls in North Chennai, football is more than just a game. “It is a tool for empowerment,” says Sukumar Thangaraj, a PhD research scholar at Department of Journalism & Communication, Madras University. This tool, feels the 29-year-old, ought to be used well. “There are so many football clubs in the area,” he says, speaking from his experience of extensive field research — football is his research subject.

“Some streets in Vyasarpadi have two to three clubs, affiliated to different political parties.” He wants to bring them all together, equip them with better understanding of the weight the game carries in their lives. “Players need to know of not just the job opportunities the game can offer; they need to ask tough questions, criticise structures that hamper their opportunities; understand the politics of the game,” Sukumar points out.

With all this in mind, he formed the Blacktown football club in August this year. The club will promote the game in North Chennai by providing a platform for players to not just play, but think as well. “As our first step, we adopted R Yamini, a Vyasarpadi football player who is in Class X,” explains Sukumar. With help from the Official Chelsea Football fans club (Tirupur), he managed to buy her a football kit last month, and hopes to pool in funds for her school fees.

Plans are afoot to create awareness on the game at Government schools by involving coaches such as N Thangaraj who founded Slum Children Sports Talent and Education Development Society (SCSTEDS) in 1997. “He makes an hour of free tuitions compulsory if children are to play at their artificial turf,” says Sukumar. “This way, children develop discipline. And if they are to play for the State or District, they have to go to school or college,” he explains, adding that he also hopes to incorporate European football structures that he follows.

While SCSTEDS is doing a lot of work in terms of encouraging children to play, its Corporation-constructed turf does not even have a changing room, points out Sukumar. “There is so much that has to change,” he says, “Right from inculcating confidence in children from the region to compete shoulder-to-shoulder with those from outside.”

Another of their small successes is getting the winners of the 23rd Senior Women’s National Football Championship (2017- 2018), the recognition they deserve. “Jenisha Rani, media manager of Super Machans, one of the official fans clubs of Chennaiyin FC, also a friend’s friend, tweeted about the win,” he says. Soon, after several retweets by fans such as him, it reached the Youth Welfare and Sports Development Minister Siva V Meyyanathan and the Government sanctioned ₹1.38 lakh per player.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 12:31:47 PM |

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