Game on for Chennai
From football to carrom to water sports, Chennai has it all
Chennai: For most outsiders, Chennai and sport only conjure up images of M.S .Dhoni, his team in yellow tees and the celebrated Chennai Super Kings jingle. But there is a variety of sporting activities taking place in the city. North Madras is home to football, boxing and weightlifting. Even little known sports like carom and body building have their roots in North Chennai. Carrom champions who have emerged include Maria Irudhyam, Revathi of Periamet and S. Ilavazaki of Perambur. Lanes in Vepery abound in carom clubs.
Other popular sports in this part of the town are body building and weightlifting. The city has produced several legends, such as Mr Thiruvengadam, the weightlifting and body building coach for several Asian and World games during the 1980s. He is now the chief instructor at the Royapuram Raghuveer Gym, the oldest gym in Chennai, having begun in the 1930s.
“Mohan Gymnasium in Perambur is also famous for its body builders and North Chennai can boast of having the oldest gyms in the city. Professionals prefer gyms in North Chennai as they are cost effective, offering the rigorous training that a sportsman needs,” says former Mr. India T. A. Giri, who now runs a gym in Pursawalkam. As with all poor neighbourhoods across the world, football draws more crowds here than even cricket. “Talent and skill are abundant in North Chennai, foot ball is the local popular sport in Vysarpadi and Pulianthope areas since the 1970s. Despite a poor economic background, several players have progressed to the state and national level from north Chennai,” says Mr M. Thangaraj, who runs Steds Football Club in Vysarpadi. He finds that now youngsters were also taking to chess, he adds.
“North Chennai has everything and the encouragement we get from locals is amazing. The presence of the Nehru stadium near Periamet is an added advantage for us,” says Ilavazaki, carrom champion. “There used to be street corner boxing events till the late 1980s. Doveton school grounds also used to be a venue for amateur boxing competitions,” recalls 55-year-old Aslam Mohammad of Pulianthope, a former boxer.
But perhaps the favourite hobby of North Chennai residents is flying manja kathadi (kites). Areas such as Royapuram, Chintadripet and Kosapet are famous for kite flying. Drive down a few km south along the Bay of Bengal and the range of sports will take your breath away. Over the last few years, the city has seen a meteoric rise in the popularity of sports like parkour, Ultimate frisbee and even surfing.
Manu Karan, (34), president of the Chennai Ultimate Frisbee Association, says, “There are currently seven clubs in the city and nearly 300 people who are into the sport which is the highest in the country. The beauty of the sport is that it has a mix of men and women and has no umpires even at the international level. “
Clubs named Chakra, Airborne, stall 7 and Blitz are some of the frisbee clubs in the city and members can be seen practising at Bessi. Karan adds, “It is a true team sport and active people are in the age group of 18-40. “
Parkour or free running started picking up in 2006 in the city. Prabhu M, who practises at the Besant Nagar beach, was one of the first practitioners in the city and the president of Chennai Parkour.
He was just out of college when a video on free running by the BBC started making the rounds on YouTube and Orkut became a way whereby people got excited about the sport, urging them to converse and join. “We started practicing at Bessi and soon we created a website.”
Prabhu says they do not promote competitions as the sport is about competing with oneself. Nearly 500 people practise parkour the city, mainly at railway yards and parks, he says. Many in the city pursue water sports, including surfing and paddling, with a passion. Showkath, a sufer who himself got trained by a group of Americans visiting Chennai seven years ago, says, “Chennai has immense potential in water sports; it’s not only visiting foreigners who surf in Chennai waters, but increasingly there are a lot of locals who surf here,” he says.
( Source : dc )