“Naagalum aaduvom, vendrae kaatuvom, vizhil oli illamal, saathithae magizhuvum (We will conquer even without the light) .”
This team song echoed in the lush green grounds of Chennai’s Montfort School, signalling the announcement of the recently-concluded football match between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
This was not your regular game: passionately driven by the Tamil Nadu National Blind Football Association, it was the first national tournament for women and the fifth for men. “It is a matter of pride to host it,” says KK Thomas, principal of Montfort School.
The cries of ‘Whoy’ (I am coming in Spanish) filled the air as the game commenced. On the whistle, four women representing their respective states took over the field.
The women dribbled the ball with caution, measuring the distance with their hands and listening to the calls of their coaches and goalies, while following the sound of the ball.
“We are very happy to have this game here; it is the first-of-its-kind in Tamil Nadu,” says Tamil Nadu coach Francis Sebastian.
The audience’s cheers and stifled gasps added to the sportive atmosphere. The match, however, ended in a draw with no goals.
“I have never been a goalie before,” says B Janani, Tamil Nadu’s goalkeeper. “I learnt to be one in the camp and have known my team for a month now. They listen only to my voice when they step into defence,” she adds with a smile.
Amidst the sportive rivalry, there was also a blooming respect between the two teams. Karnataka’s goalkeeper Reshma Karthik adds, “Tamil Nadu did perform great by getting close to scoring two goals.”
This is M Rajeshwari’s first National match. As she catches her breath, she beams, saying she loved the experience, “I feel so grateful to be here and our coach is really patient with us.”
Honorary Secretary of the National Association for the Blind P Chandrasekar says they are on a mission: “We wish to take this forward to many blind schools and special schools to keep the game going.”
Team member T Bhuvaneshwari’s mother chimes in saying, “I never really knew such sports existed. I am not that literate and I really wanted my children to get everything I could not.” She adds, “Blind football has given my daughter so much happiness and purpose.”