Classrooms to fields, a league apart

This edition of Chennai Kalpandhu League is a training ground of football for boys and girls from government schools.
Photos: R Satish Babu
Photos: R Satish Babu

CHENNAI: When Kaviya, a class 7 student of Jaigopal Garodia Higher Secondary School saw a women’s football match scene in the movie Bigil, she wondered why the sport is not commonly played by women and girls like her. Though she knew that there were women’s football teams, she never had the chance to see a live match or on television. Soon she developed an interest in the sport which was further encouraged by the school authorities and her dream of playing a tournament came true with the second edition of Chennai Kaalpandhu League (CKL). This is not just the story of Kaviya but of almost 180 kids who were selected for the league, a CSR initiative by LatentView Analytics.

Identifying talents
With twelve teams (six boys and six girls), the league witnesses the participation of children from 30 government schools — 15 each from Tiruvallur and Chennai. After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, this year’s edition focused on inclusivity in terms of students only from government schools. “Unlike the last edition, we have equal participation of girls and boys from classes 6 to 8. The last edition was a learning experience for us. Thus, we thought of expanding the participation this year.

We trained them for almost 40 days,” shares Mariam Alex, HR Executive, LatentView Analytics. Confirming that the efforts to train the kids don’t stop with the league, Mariam adds, “This year itself, we have a phase two, which will include identifying top talents and having them associated with clubs or training institutes where they can further develop their talent. Year after year, we will go searching for these talents, and we will try to have more engagement programmes with the respective teams.”

Lessons on empowerment
The training which started on September 16 continued for one hour every day at the respective schools. “In the training session, they taught us everything. They gave us the whole football kit including a jersey and boots. They are also taking care of our food and transportation. In the selection process, they checked the basic skills, who scored more goals, and the discipline of each player in a team. For our diet, the coaches instructed us to avoid oily food and consume more vegetables.

During the games, we drank juice and glucose,” Kaviya shares. With an illuminating spirit, the kids agree that the matches have instilled a sense of pride and happiness in them. A few of them even wish to pursue a career in the sport. Hallan Joseph and Vishal from MMD Higher Secondary School, Arumbakkam, concur that the coaches motivated them to take up an interest in football and continue playing games even after the league.

Speaking about the coaches and the league, Stephen Charles, referees committee convenor, Chennai Footballs Association, says, “The coaches are well-experienced and pay individual attention to the kids. This is a great experience for the kids. When academics is a necessity, we shouldn’t ignore sports. Initiatives like this motivate parents and children to focus on sports. Many NGOs and corporate institutions should collaborate with sports associations and take up initiatives like this and continue empowering children.”

Emphasising that children should persevere to cultivate their talents, LatentView Analytics aims to provide meticulous training by some of the best football coaches in the country. Achyuth, data analyst, LatentView Analytics and ex-football professional, shares, “Right now, the kids are getting an opportunity and they are having tournaments to progress and grow. That is a good start but, it is more about how they are continuing and holding their opportunities. Not many people get these types of opportunities. If you go on in the timeline, you will be getting other obstacles and reasons not to play anymore. Our company provides an opportunity, they have to continue their progress.”

With a focus on education, the global digital analytics consulting and solutions firm looks into providing a holistic approach. “We believe that sports are an important element for the holistic development of a child in addition to education. And CKL is a small step in that direction,” shares Mariam.

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