March 7 From some unknown corners of Salem district are emerging four international sporting talents following the success course charted by Paralympic gold medalist T.Mariappan of Salem.
The four are representing the Under 19 Indian team in the Cerebral Palsy (CP) Foot Ball event at the World Games to be held at Sant Cugat in Spain from August 7 to 17. They share similar economic background as T, Mariappan and like him are physical challenged while one is a cerebral palsy victim.
The CP Football event is held in categories of mixed teams composed of certain number of players with certain levels of physical disability and certain number of mentally challenged players. In the roving team of fifteen players,seven will be playing at a time.
Salem has been made proud not only by the four emerging talents but also by the Taminadu team coach K.R Sidheswaran 26. The young coach from Salem who was an Asian Championship participant in Soft Tenis game, is the secretary of the Cerebral Palsy Sports Association of Tamilnadu. He had coached the Taminadu CP Foot Ball team out of which six have been selected for of the Indian CP Football team to play at the Word Games in Sant Cugat.
Mouli Balaji a 11 th.standard student at Joythi Vidyalaya, Ilampillai is son of an agricultural coolie. He played for the Indian Team in the 7 A Side, CP Football at the South Asian Championship in Nepal two months back. The boy lost his three fingers of his right hand due to an accident quite early as a child, but shows keen interest in sports and games.
Mahesh Arvind is a 1 st year B.Com student at A.V.S College of Arts and Science, Salem, the same college where K.Mariappan studied). He has a congenital deformity of his left hand. His father is policeman working in the Thampampatti station and lives in Sooramangalam.
Robin Russel a resident of Periyapudur in Salem is a son of carpenter and studies at Jairam College of Arts and Science, Salem. He lost his left hand fore arm in an accident, yet the amputee doesn’t allow the deformity to reduce his passion for sports.
V.Jinesh from Kannnankurichi in Salem has a bent back due to overgrowth of the shoulder bone. Due to a deformed growth of the bone, his neck is shortened. Yet he shows grit and skill when it comes to paynigl games and has managed to do well in studies. He studies at S.R.M Engineering College in Chennai. Mohamed Afzal is a cerebral palsy victim from Kerala, studies 12th standard through open schooling as he cannot attend regular school.
Selva Balaji from Theni District is a cerebral palsy victim. Son of a coolie worker, he is doing his 10 th.standard. It is these kind of youth with diverse disabilities, K.R Sidheswaran is preparing for the Word Games.
The players from Salem and the other two of the Tamilnadu team are getting trained in the St.John’s Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Salem playground. The Tamilnadu team coached by Sidheswaran was selected to contest in the 7A Side CP Football event in the 18 th. National Cerebral Palsy, Amputee, Disabled and Para Handicapped Games held at Goa last year and won the silver. They were qualified to play for the Indian team which contested in the 1 st South Asian, International Cerebra ll Palsy 7 A Side CP Foot Ball event. The Indian team came the runner up and has been qualified to play in the Word Games in Sant Cugat, Spain.
As the players are from ordinary economic background , Sidheswaran is coaching the Tamilnadu team for the World Games without taking any fee. “ I thank the St.John’s School principal Father Soloman Raj for giving us the space to practice, food in the school hostel and accomodation for the outstation players to stay during training sessions and various other forms of support” says the coach.
The biggest challenge in training the team is the diversity of abiitiy of the payers. It is like composing music with different instruments. The CP football team should comprise a certain number of physicaly and mentachaly challenged. Unlike the regular players, the CP team members' skill levels and response levels are not uniform. Each member need to be trained individually and make them perform collectively, “their” best. The mentally challenged respond slow to instructions and react slow to new situations. Yet they have to be carried along by the team. The goal keeper cannot have disability on both of his hands but may be a person with weak legs. Above all the ground has to be even and flat as uneven surfaces can lead to frequent imbalance, falls and hurts. An artificial surface is needed for practice” says the coach who is trying to get the maximum mileage with minimum resources.
While expressing confidence in getting the team continue the winning trend in the Word Games and get selected to play for the Paralympics, Sidheswaran is spreading out his arms for help from various quarters to support the travel expense of the team to Sant Cugat which he says will cost about Rs 15 lakhs. His network of friends are trying to raise crowd funding through, the website http//www.edudharama.com/campaign/supportindianpayers.
“ My parents cannot arrange the entire amount needed to make a trip to Spain and I hope the efforts in raising donations will help. If given an opportunity, to go I am confident that our Indian team wi clinch the cup” says Mahesh Aravind.
(Centre for Communnity Media)