After parents’ approval, the next big hurdle for sports-loving children is school. Without school’s support, a sportsman’s career can never blossom. In the early 80s, only a few schools laid emphasis on sports. Many of them did not encourage sports for they did not have a playground. The case of CBSE schools was different. The focus was primarily on academics, and a child’s sporting ambition seldom soared beyond high school.
But Viswanathan Anand was fortunate to study in Don Bosco, Egmore. The most sought-after school of that time, it had excellent facilities for academics and sports.
Among the alumni were sportsmen of various breeds such as racers Akbar Ebrahim, S Rajan, Sanjay Parthasarathy, M Sanjay, Nagarajan, tennis players Zubin Irani, Meenakshi, paddlers Ranjit Punja, Ranjith Rajamani, Vineet, Narain Gopinath and swimmer S Sundar.
Anand, too, benefited and was part of the school’s ‘golden’ period. “Anand was a budding chess player and used to take part in many tournaments. I remember he used to come with his mother and his father was in the Railways at that time,’’ recollected Albert Sam, physical director of Don Bosco. “Myself, Vijaykumar (PT master) and Charles (PT Master) used to take Anand for matches. I remember taking Anand for a chess tournament in Loyola college,’’ added Albert Sam. At that time Father Simon was the vice-principal and he was a table tennis enthusiast. So at times, TT got preference over cricket.
“Fr Simon went all out and supported table tennis. All other sports took a backseat, but he liked Anand and encouraged him. Anand was studious and well behaved. He had passion for chess and we are glad that he is a legend,’’ said Sam.
Though competitions and travel meant Anand missed a lot of classes, the school took his case as special. Perhaps, no other student was granted as many leaves as Anand.
Also, he had an ardent backer in late mathematics teacher Lourdaraj, himself a genius. He liked Anand and helped him prepare for exams.