Band of 50s still ringing loud in Chennai football league

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.

Published: 17th April 2018 02:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th April 2018 08:22 AM   |  A+A-

TNEB’s N Parthiban (R) is one of the veterans of the league. (EPS | D Sampathkumar)

Express News Service

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.
nithin.k@newindianexpress.com

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