CHENNAI: Football is a fast and physical game, meant for the fit and young. A different sight is on offer in the Chennai Second Division league, where a group of players in their 40s and 50s are taking on opponents half their age. This is the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board team, which has been playing with almost the same set of players for close to 25 years, the last eight of those in the Second Division of the Chennai Football Association league.
It was in 1994 that TNEB last recruited footballers. At their prime then, this bunch is playing since. Body may revolt, mind may not permit, but they carry on, defying the heat, even beating younger rivals on rare good days.“If my body permits, I am willing to continue,” says N Parthiban, who featured in TNEB’s 2-1 victory over SD Somasundaram FC on Sunday. Low on stamina and handicapped by ageing limbs, this 50-year-old is not the ideal type of a midfielder, a role he was playing. “I have poor stamina and energy. Passion to play drags me to the pitch for practice after work every day,” he says.
For Parthiban’s teammates, motivation is the same. “This is the 26th year I’m playing here and I’m ready for more. From 1995-2000, there were few court cases and later the board was hit by financial crisis. There was no sports quota recruitment,” says the 47-year-old Jerome, TNEB captain.It’s difficult to stretch your limits on a regular basis and it shows in the results. Twice Senior Division champions in the first half of the previous decade, they naturally lost their position of prominence. The team was relegated in 2008. After two years in the First Division, they are now fighting to stay in the Second Division, having won just one and drawn two of their nine matches so far.
The situation can change only if fresh blood is injected. According to officials, plans are in the pipeline. “Financial state of the board is better now. We are planning to start hiring on sports quota this year. Last year, the board recruited squash star Joshna Chinappa as senior sports officer, which was path-breaking. We are optimistic that recruitment will start soon,” says KR Shiva Kumar, TNEB’s senior sports officer.
Until then, those who ought to have associated with the game in other capacities go through the grind, which involves training in poor grounds and inviting physical damage. “Playing on mud is tough for players nearing 50. They are losing interest because of injuries. Till last year we played on a turf ground in Nehru Park, which is not available now,” rues NP Anil Kumar, TNEB manager.
Senior Division: Indian Bank 5 bt Chennai Customs RC 2; Income Tax RC 3 bt ICF 1.