Contrast couldn’t be as glaring as the narratives of STEDS SC and Hindustan Eagles, the two upgraded teams to this edition’s ST Joseph’s-CFA Senior Division League. While Hindustan Eagles boast off stable financial patronage and infrastructure, the STEDS are sustaining on a shoestring budget.
Even the vision behind the formulation of clubs was divergent. STEDS (Slum Children Sports Talent and Educational Development Society) was formed with the initiative to divert youngsters from disruptive habits, as children in the smutty slums of Vyasarpadi are prone to. “I couldn’t tolerate the sight of youngsters taking ganja and turning rowdies. So, I thought of forming a football club so as to divert the youngsters,” recollected club secretary N Umapathy.
Hindustan Group of Educational Institutions, meanwhile, bailed out the financially creaking Madras Eagles and formed Hindustan Eagles to promote talented, up-and-coming footballers. Eagles had eleven registered players and the other 15 were drafted from four colleges (Loyola, Sathyabhama, St Joseph’s and Hindustan). Moreover, they roped in two experienced former players — Abraham Varghese and Robin Charles Raja, who was instrumental to Chennai Customs’ title run in the 2009-10 season — as coaches. Both sides waged an intense battle for the first division title, which Eagles eventually bagged with a point ahead of STEDS. While Eagles went for an overhaul of the team with just four from the previous season making the cut, STEDS’ core remains the same while they could afford only four players as reinforcement. Eagles is an ensemble of Liberian, North East, Tamil and Malayali players, STEDS is largely drawn out of local talent.
Both had distinct starts to the season. STEDS stumbled to a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of the powerful ICF. Eagles were lucky to scamper a point from their goalless draw against SAI. STEDS demonstrated considerable ingenuity upfront through slick passing whereas Eagles seemed totally bereft of ideas.
Unified by the aspiration to stay alive in the top tier, both feel their best is yet to be. STEDS coach N Thangaraj, though, disappointed at the results believes his boys can turn the tide while Eagles’ counterpart Robin is convinced of his team’s fighting abilities. Eventually, the difference of these teams staying alive would hinge on their hunger for success.