Football players cleaning chairs at cricket stadium to earn their living
Indore: In a clear manifestation of the apathy meted out to non-cricketing sport in the country, around a dozen football players, who have represented the state and the national team in the past, have been forced to clean chairs at Holkar cricket stadium – the venue of Indian Premier League (IPL) matches scheduled for May 13 and 15 - to earn their living.
On one hand where most of the cricket players earn in millions as they adorn a demi-god status, other sportsmen are forced to live a rather anonymous life, many at times even struggling to arrange even two squares of meals a day.
Sanjay Nidan, who runs Anand Football Club in Indore, represented the country in 1998 and has won several trophies too. But today with his 12 players and other members of the club, Sanjay is cleaning and washing the chairs and pavilion of the stadium.
According to Sanjay, Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) gives Rs 2.5 per chair for cleaning them. Apart from Sanjay, seven other football players who have played with him at the state and national level have joined him in the cleaning drive.
However, the MPCA feigned ignorance over the stark reality.
“We have given the cleaning contract to a local agency. It is difficult to track who all have been employed by the agency for the job,” MPCA CEO Rohit Pandit said.
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Helping Kerala lift the Santosh Trophy in April 2018, the midfielder has to make many rounds of government offices to get what the government has promised him - a tiny plot and a house.
Far away from his home at Pilicode, midfielder KP Rahul, 23, is working hard at a selection camp of Chennaiyin FC in Chennai. Playing in the Indian Super League (ISL) is his dream and ticket to escape poverty and the abject apathy of his home state Kerala.
Rahul has already proved his mettle, helping Kerala lift the Santosh Trophy after a 14-year gap in April 2018. An elated state government promised jobs for all the 11 players - who had defeated West Bengal - and a house for Rahul.
Two monsoons later, the midfielder is still living with his 70-year-old grandmother Narayani in a dilapidated leaky shed, which he calls home, at Pilicode. “All that is not on my mind now. I’m thinking only of football,” he said on phone from Chennai.
Pilicode grama panchayat president Sreedharan TV said Rahul’s family moved to Cheemeni village. “Here we had formed a people’s committee to help him, but he moved to Cheemeni and we did not pursue it,” he said.
Three years ago, the government gave Rahul’s mother KV Thankamani 10 cents at Chembrakanam, 5 km from Cheemeni. When the government gave Rs 2 lakh each to all players for the Santosh Trophy victory, he invested the money and another Rs 3 lakh he took as loan to build a one-room house on the plot. It is now shared by his mother, a daily-wage labourer; father KP Rameshan, a woodcutter; and his sister Rasna, an undergraduate student of Payyannur College.
“I don’t stay there because there’s no ground to practise at Chembrakanam. So I live with my grandmother,” he said. The leaky shed sits on four cents, on which all the seven children of Narayani have a stake. “I didn’t ask for the house from the government. But since it promised me a house, the word should be kept,” he said.
The District Collector had directed Pilicode Village officer to find a plot and allot it to Rahul. “The panchayat can help build a house only if the plot is in his name,” said the president. The promised job is also not in sight.
Rahul, who was the captain of Kasaragod team, first played for Kerala when he was in Class VI. While studying at the Pilicode Government UP School, he was picked up by the Vision India Project and given coaching. He represented Kerala in the Under-13 category. After high school, he joined Malappuram’s MSP Higher Secondary School, known for its success in football.
Then Rahul enrolled at the Baselius College in Kottayam for BA Malayalam course and went on to play for the Mahatma Gandhi University. “That’s when I was picked to play in the Santosh Trophy tournament,” he said. After a year or so, Rahul dropped out of college and joined SN College in Kannur because he wanted to train at Pilicode. However, it now appears there is hardly any room for him in his native village.