Football in Madras

AdminAdmin 240 Points
edited June 2011 in Past
Memories of Madras - In a league of its own

When Southern Railways' football team had an important match, passengers at Madras' railroad terminals faced a problem. They had to do without porters, because these men deserted the stations en masse for the stadium, where they rooted for their team, proudly wearing their red turbans.

Such enthusiasm for the sport came from other quarters too. To give just one example, top actors followed the fortunes of their favourite teams with astounding fanaticism. For any major match, Nagesh, Muthuraman and Srikanth would take time out of their shooting schedules and dash to the playground. They used to be spotted at football grounds, wearing the costumes of their on-screen characters. R.M. Veerappan — leader and movie producer — also followed the sport keenly. He was a regular sight at major football tournaments.

Nagesh and Muthuraman supported the initiatives of the State football association. They would don the jerseys for exhibition matches. Muthuraman XI versus Nagesh XI, where the actors led two teams, each consisting of top players provided by the Association, was always a big draw.

In 1943, when I came to Madras, football's popularity was rivalled only by cricket. As the sport did not entail purchase of any expensive gear, it was patronised by a vast section of the population. At 5 p.m., every public ground in Madras was overrun with footballers. Many of them were children playing football with tennis balls and bare feet.

In those days, even top footballers in the country, with the exception of those in the teams of British regiments, played without shoes. Accustomed to playing this way from a young age, they dribbled the ball better with shoeless feet. This practice stopped in the 1950s when the All India Football Federation made shoes mandatory for players.

Footballers of those days lacked the outward symbols of professionalism, but they looked upon the sport as a craft. As if to reward this dedication, fans thronged local tournaments. When top teams such as Wimco, Minerva, Pachaiyappa's, Tilak-Moti and Southern Railways played, tight security was ensured. Fans worshipped teams and top players. For example, many flocked to the grounds just to watch Wimco's star striker Thangaraj. He seldom disappointed them.

The sight of huge crowds impelled footballers to give every match their best shot. Sometimes, they did so ignoring injuries. For instance, ICF's captain Janakiraman soldiered on despite a sprained ankle and scored two goals, one in the dying moments of the game, to give his team a 3-2 victory over Wimco in the Gymkhana Club Football Tournament in 1960.

Football fans missed good players when they left the scene. In 1951, Truman scored a hat-trick and scripted an easy win for Tilak-Moti over Indian Railway Institute in the early rounds of the Social Service Invitation Football Tournament at SIAA in 1951. Considering Truman was planning to migrate to Australia, this brilliant performance only deepened the sorrow of Madras' football fans.

BIO T.R. GOVINDARAJAN: Born in 1925, TRG (as he is known) has distinguished himself as a football administrator and a referee. He has held many terms — totalling up to 24 years — as secretary of the Tamil Nadu Football Association (TFA). He had associated with the All India Football Federation's Referees Board for three decades and retired as its chairman last year. He served with the Southern Railways. At present, he is the president of Nethaji Sports Club, which he founded with a few others in 1946.

I REMEMBER In those days, the SIAA grounds and MUC grounds were venues for major football tournaments. When a match was in progress at MUC, the foot-over bridge at the Fort Railway Station was occupied by football fans trying to catch a glimpse of the action. They hindered the movement of passengers but nobody would complain.

<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""> ... 084729.ece</a><!-- m -->


  • thebeautifulgamethebeautifulgame Durgapur,India28631 Points

    The lost glory of Chennai's football league

    The top tier of the CFA (Chennai Football Association) league has had a glorious past in terms of fan presence and engagement.

    “The ground (Nehru stadium) was different then,” said CFA secretary Sugumaran. To explain, he placed on a table two writing pads (for grounds) horizontally next to each other, and held a time board (for gallery) to one side facing the pads. “Two matches were held simultaneously. One on the ground close to the crowd, and the other on the ground further away. That way, I think, the people had a sense of closeness to the players.”

    He said the league was a preferred pastime for the city people then.

    Sixty-four-year-old P. Nageswara Rao (Nagesh) said the Vittal trophy, a National-level competition, was the only major football tournament held regularly in Chennai those days.

    Nagesh has been an observer in the CFA senior division league for the past four years now. One may see him focussed on the match and taking notes which serves as a valuable input for the Tamil Nadu State squad selection for the Santosh trophy. He played as a striker for more than 15 years in the league (roughly from around 1974), prominently for ICF and CPT.

    “People had to buy a one-rupee entry ticket (as opposed to the free entry now) and even then there were long queues,” he said.

    “First division was the top-most tier then. ICF and WIMCO were the best teams. Indian Bank wasn’t there initially. Nethaji Sports Club was the only private club,” he added.

    He said there were several charismatic players then, who had dedicated fans.

    “When Nagesh played, it didn’t feel like he had a mechanism. He was flamboyant. The league doesn’t have that kind of players now,” said Sugumaran.

    There had been only one foreign player then, David Williams (Nigeria), who played for Nethaji FC.

    Sugumaran said, “The daily-wage labourers from Periamet, and the porters from the nearby Railway stations were the most frequent visitors then.”

    “Most of the labourers were fans of WIMCO (a matchbox company). Similarly, most of the porters supported Southern Railway,” said Nagesh.

    The league has now become rigidly professional with more private clubs, said the 55-year-old Prince, who has played for Nethaji FC. He is a loyal fan who watches most of the matches in the stadium now. “The institutional teams mostly had their employees playing then, so the other employees and those who were associated with the institutions became frequent visitors. Now, those teams don’t mostly recruit the players playing for them.”

    He reckons the CFA is further losing fans due to its poor organisation of the league. He also drew attention to the poor condition of the spectator facilities, especially the restrooms, that receive a facelift for major tournaments like the Indian Super League.

  • DXDX 4074 Points
    Matches played in the weekday afternoons and league wrapped in a few weeks itself , all played in the same ground, lack of professionalism in player contracts everything plagues the league.

    Frankly if we Chuck the current TNFA and install a private player they have a massive potential in thier hands. They can just bring in crowds if they are spread across Tamil Nadu instead are concentrated only in Chennai.

    The clubs in the senior div are big enough to be atleast league 2 standards. 

    Viva Chennai, Agorc, Hindustan eagles, Arrows are all lower to mid league 2 standards.

    Lost glory and chance indeed.
  • munna219777munna219777 28432 Points
    If you spread the league across Tamil Nadu, who will pay for all travel, Lodging, Boarding charges? Plus it will become Home and away with almost zero supporters for 1 side.
    If the league is played in one city only, supporters from both clubs can come plus you dont incur lodging / travel expenses. City specific Sponsors also can get attracted.
  • DXDX 4074 Points
    Let me tell you the state of CFA league 

    1.) No sponsers for the league

    2.) No crowds for the games

    3.) Matches played in weekday afternoon to cut down on rents in Nehru stadium and also no floodlight matches as it's almost 15k per match for floodlight alone.

    Compared to spreading the game

    1.) Local sponsers willing to support clubs in tier 2-3 cities

    2.) Rental costs are down with possibility of floodlights 

    3.) More crowd in tier 2-3 cities when it's affordable to play in the weekend.

    Travel costs are miniscule compared to costs cut due to spreading of the league across a state considering it only takes a max 8 to 10 hrs he's by train or bus to reach TN point to point.
  • deepak dedhadeepak dedha Ghar2718 Points
    more like Dance India Dance season promo
  • thebeautifulgamethebeautifulgame Durgapur,India28631 Points

    When Ooty had a ‘dribbler par excellence’

    With the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches taking centre-state, the Nilgiris, which always shared an immense love for the game, remembers its legendary footballer M Thangaraj, popularly known as ‘WIMCO’ Thangaraj.
    Thangaraj, who hailed from Ooty, represented the erstwhile composite Madras state from 1944 to 1955. In 1948, he not only played for the Province, but was also selected for the Indian Olympic Team. He could not, however, make the trip to England.

    Thangaraj was offered a coaching career in South Africa after his playing career, but lost everything because of his addiction to liquor.

    The ‘dribbler par excellence’, who used to play barefoot, is the greatest sportsman this beautiful town has ever known. Born on December 12, 1923 at ‘Band Lane’ in Ooty, Thangaraj hailed from a humble and devout Roman Catholic family.

    According to sports writers, he played for ‘Ooty Blues’ and this team was Ooty’s answer to formidable teams like Mohun Began, Mohamedan Sporting, East Bengal, and to Coimbatore’s ‘Blood Red’.

    Thangaraj served with the TVS from 1943 to 1949 and played for TVS Greens. When this soccer wizard represented the famous ‘WIMCO’ (Western India Match Factory) as its captain from 1950 to 1956, fans throughout India nicknamed him ‘WIMCO’ Thangaraj. When Thangaraj represented the WIMCO team at the ever-popular Rovers Cup of the then Bombay, the press in Bombay described him the ‘Star Forward’ of the competition.

    D Thiagarajan, a late journalist of the Nilgiris, wrote, “In 1953, Thangaraj was a member of the touring Indian team and played in the then ‘Iron Curtain’ Communist nation USSR and in Romania. Thangaraj’s unbelievable booting with his traditional ‘barefoot’ from the centre of the ground against the formidable Russian goal keeper is still being talked of as a ‘miracle’ in the annals of Indian soccer. He also represented India in the Manila Asian Games.”

    He said Thangaraj was the cleverest and most effective inside-right to don a footballer’s colour during his playing years. With his rare skill and complete lack of showmanship, he had earned a niche in the hearts of thousands of soccer fans throughout India.

    According to the late journalist, there was not a football field in the south where he had not played and earned the admiration of the crowds. He was called the ‘master of the dribble’, whether on the gravel surface of Tiruchirapalli or on the lawns of Madras or for that matter in his home ground Ooty.

    “So sure was he with the ball and quick in his judgment that he never advertised his intentions. A dribble by Thangaraj was the most delightful thing to watch,” Thiagarajan writes.

    Raman Raghunath, secretary, Foot-volley Association of Tamil Nadu, said, “During the seventies, when football was the lifeline of Ooty, one could see Thangaraj in all matches. He was a brilliant player par excellence.” He added, “After his demise in the early eightees, the Nilgiris never saw another sportsperson like him.”

    Football lovers say it is disheartening to note that there has been no memorial even in his hometown Ooty for this great sportsman.

  • Rohit Ramesh has proposed to the AIFF that he plans to register a new entity under the Companies Act to function as the State Association (TFA) “to protect and promote the interests of football in Tamil Nadu.”

Sign In or Register to comment.