Mr Manesh Muraleedharan with Winners, PARCO
When a facebook post declared loudly 14 teams, 45 matches, 150 players, it was astounding. Being organisers ourselves I thought of the mammoth task these organisers were undertaking. And the title said ‘Malayali Football Cup 2014’. An exclusive Malayalee Football Match? That made me proud and intrigued being a Malayalee myself. Malayalees are the second largest ethnic group in Singapore yet having an exclusive Malayalee Challenge Cup meant there has to be many football players among the Malayalees itself. Being an aggressive game which required practise and lots of hours on the grounds testing physical stamina I was left wondering, how did so many Malayalees find time to take up this sport in their otherwise busy lives? So off I went to watch the games and to get a better perspective.
Nestling in the lush greens, the Rainforest Sports Hub in Bukit Timah was the place of action. As we stepped out of the cab we were greeted to the sad sight of huge tree trunks gnarled and lying helplessly on either side of the track. That was a heart- wrenching sight for me.
As we moved on to the grounds there were two games simultaneously in progress. The games were being played under huge nets so there was no question of being hit by the ball for us spectators. Each side had seven energetic players and each game was of 15mins duration.
Runner up : Snippers FC
How does this work? The elimination rounds and the games?
Mr Manesh Muraleedharan the chief organiser who has spearheaded this and other various tournaments in Singapore gave a comprehensive explanation.
“Malayali Football Cup 2014 has 14 teams which are grouped into 2 groups of 7 teams each. All the teams in a group play against each other in Group Round Robin stage. Which means 6 games for each team in Group Round Robin stage. Each game is of 15 minutes duration with side changes during half time. Top 2 teams from each group reaches semi finals and from there on it’s knock out till finals. There will be 45 matches and all matches controlled by International referees to ensure fair decisions. This time we have one referee from Egypt and 2 from Nigeria.”
“Malayali Football Cup was started in 2011 when I was sports secretary of Singapore Malayalee Association (SMA) to bring people together through football which is one of the widely played sport in Singapore and in Kerala. Now it is the 4th year in a row and every year it’s becoming big. Initially it was 8 teams and now it is 14 teams and about 150 players.” (Manesh)
Using emails, face book, sms to reach out to people during the games they had live streaming of the games in progress on You Tube. “This You Tube streaming is a first –time- initiative by our team as it is usually done for IPL matches,” Manesh declared proudly.
The participating teams are said to practise regularly and some to band themselves during start of the tournaments and practise last few weeks before the tournament. Teams include players ranging from 15 to 45 years, students as well as professionals.
Later after the event chatting with Manesh Muraleedharan, software engineer by profession himself a cricket player and EXCO member of Singapore Cricket Association which is the national governing body of cricket in Singapore poured forth his enthusiasm for sporting events.
What was happening in the Malayalee sports field before you started organising the various sporting events?
There were no organized football tournaments for Malayalees in Singapore. Malayalees used to play Futsal and friendly matches before these tournaments started. Few players are part of some clubs which play league in Singapore. I have also started Malayalee Cricket Tournaments, Volleyball tournaments and brought Badminton to a bigger arena with more teams.
How did you know there will be a good response for the sports?
Malayalees love sports especially cricket, football, volleyball and others. I have many friends who wanted to play the various games and they encouraged and supported me in all my sport’s ventures.
Are the sporting events you organise restricted to Malayalees only or open to other ethnic groups?
In Malayali Sports @ SG group, we conduct only Malayalee Sports to unify the community. But I do conduct tournaments which are open to all races and ethnic groups.
Which events have bigger responses?
Almost all the sports events have big responses. Most of the times participation is over-subscribed and we have to say “No” to some teams to keep the duration short and manageable.
What are the challenges or problems you face in organising? And how do you resolve them?
Main challenge is to conduct the matches uninterrupted as for football, field and referee come with a cost. More time means more cost. As usual this time too the matches were continuous and there were no delays in between the matches. This has been achieved by proper planning, fixture of games flawlessly with proper rest time for teams between matches, wonderful coordination between volunteers and of course the whole hearted support from all the teams.
How big is the team that assists you in organising?
We have about 40-50 active volunteers who give their support in various sports. They are my strength and without them these are not possible. Each event needs a lot of coordination and hard work.
What are the major expenses involved and how do you fund the games?
Different games have different sets of expenses. Most of the ventures are self sufficient and self funded by the teams themselves. We don’t have any sponsors so far except when conducted in SMA where there were few.
Can you give me some names of the participating Teams?
Main teams were Parco, Snipers, Panthers, Jublians, MIS, Shooters Bukit Batok, Bishan Amateurs, K Mallus, Knights United, Just United, Raptors FC, Smart Boyz. We had all 10 teams that had participated last year plus 4 new teams joined this year. Teams like Snipers even played as two teams committed as a single family with 22 players, 1 manager and 100 over supporters.
Which group won this time?
It was won by PARCO and Runners-Up were SNIPERS FC
What is the sporting action you are organising next and when?
Next we have Badminton and Cricket lined up and preparations are in progress. Dates shall be announced shortly. This is open to all groups and races and not Malayalees alone.
The Malayali Football Cup 2014, with matches played day and night, saw lot of enthusiastic people, about 500, attending the event including players, friends and families.
(The Malayali Football Cup 2014 was held at Rainforest Sports Hub, on 3rd of August)
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