CHENNAI: It isn’t too often that one gets the opportunity to see Indian tennis sensation Somdev Devvarman ‘not’ surrounded by screaming tennis fans or sweating it out on a tennis court.
On Sunday morning, having recently reached his highest ATP ranking at 80, Chennai was privy to both occurrences as he chilled with a bunch of friends at the Nehru Stadium, playing a friendly game of football as part of the Football Fever tournament.
Said Somdev as he turned spectator to the game, “I grew up playing all kinds of sports, it wasn’t always tennis. Honestly, I really enjoy a game of basketball or football.”
Football Fever is a monthly tournament organised by Vikram Menon, the founder of Phenomenon Sport. “Vikram is a close friend and one of the few people in Chennai that I am in touch with from back in the day,” revealed Somdev of the reason behind his ‘unheralded’ presence.
Apart from corporate teams and sports enthusiasts, the company also supports the Bethel Agriculture Fellowship, a team of young men from underprivileged backgrounds.
Vinod and Selvam from the Fellowship along with their teammates like to call themselves, ‘Life is a ball.’ Vinod is presently a Counsellor for HIV+ individuals while Selvam is pursuing his MBA.
According to them, “Playing football in the tournament is a lot of fun. We’ve known Vikram for a few months and he has given us kits with the right shoes for the game.” Their excitement after having made the quarterfinals was visible, to say the least.
Despite the blazing February sun, the enthusiasm of having an ‘international’ tennis star kicking a few in their midst, was palpably alive.
Somdev added with conviction, “I believe that sport can change lives and it is unfortunate there are so many people who don’t have the opportunity to play. I completely support him and I hope that in a couple of years we can influence 500 kids,” before he added optimistically, “Who knows, maybe even a thousand kids!”
With 25 teams that were in the running, the star attraction was of course Somdev as he played for a team called the ‘United Devils’, a bunch of Manchester United fans. Needless to say, the results were not the highlight of the day, for once.
“Somehow it’s not just about winning,” Vikram says and adds, “introducing people to sport, can be a means to a better life.”