Saturday, June 27, 2009

Slum footballers vow to ‘rise like phoenix’

Slum footballers vow to ‘rise like phoenix’
Published Date: 26-June-2009
G Saravanan

Chennai, June 25: IT was all over within a few minutes for Suresh, an acclaimed footballer from Vyasarpadi slums, when his settlement was ravaged in a fire accident a few days ago.

He had represented Nethaji Sports Club and Central Excise teams in several tournaments and won laurels. The fire licked everything including his house and now, Suresh and his four brothers even do not have another pair of dress to wear or a roof over their head.

(Nearly 40 huts and property worth a few lakhs were destroyed in a fire in Vyasarpadi in North Chennai on Monday.) “What can I do if an employer, before whom I gave an interview a few days ago, asks me to produce original certificates for confirming my job there?” wondered an inconsolable Suresh.

Not only Suresh but other aspiring footballers from the slum, groomed by the local Slum Children Sports Talent and Education Development Society (SCSTEDS), are in a state of shock. Their recently arrived stocks of 250 footballs, 125 pair of boots and colourful jerseys from Jalandhar turned into ashes in the mishap.

SCSTEDS’s president N Umapathy, said if not for the fire mishap the aspiring footballers were dreaming of ‘Vision 2014’, a mission in which the slum-based club was aiming at sending at least one among them to represent India.Himself a club footballer, Umapathy was anguished at the way a large number of youngsters in his slum were taking to bad habits. Just to change their mindset he formed SCSTEDS in 2000.

What had begun as a move for attitudinal change soon evolved into a full passion and now, over 250 slum children, as young as seven-year-olds, attend daily coaching sessions. “Though we have lost everything, and the budding footballers are demoralised, we have not lost our hope and we will rise like a phoenix from ashes very soon,” Umapathy said.
He also assured that his club’s plan to organise a school-level football matches by July-end still stands.
Meanwhile, after a gap of two days, Umapathy arranged two new footballs and children started rolling it just to forget the pain of loss.
The slum children may lost everything to the flames, but their faith to overcome the crisis tells the die-hard attitude of locals.

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