As non-mainstream games like futsal and spikeball pick up steam in the city, we talk to the players who are going places
BACK in 2007, when Ultimate Frisbee hit Chennai’s shores, it was the refreshing change that youngsters in the city were looking for. Soon, paintball followed and since then, this city has absorbed many more non-mainstream sports and games, Spikeball being the newest. “Our first tournament took place in August and the next one will take place in December,” assures Vishnu Sharma, 25, who introduced the game earlier this year. With city-based paintball team, Paint Mechanix, representing India at the World Paintball Championship in Langkawi, we take a look at the city’s best teams in sports like futsal, lazer tag and more.
Text: Ryan Peppin
Ultimate Frisbee is not new to the city. Among the four big tournaments conducted in India (Bengaluru, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Mumbai), the Chennai Heat is the only one on a beach. And among the approximately nine teams that compete from Chennai, Airborne, a club that was started in 2009, has several youngsters coming together for the game. “We have 20 active members and always go as two teams with a mix of three women and four men in each,” says Karthik Viswanathan, captain and a star player. “There’s an upcoming tournament in Surat in December that will introduce a category exclusively for women,” he adds, admitting that an increasing number of players from Ulloor Kuppam (slum) have switched from cricket to Ultimate Frisbee and love the recognition this game offers them. These winners of the Chennai Heat for the past three consecutive years, are also hoping to extend that streak to the Ahmedabad tournament that they have won for the past two years.
Within seven months of launching the lazer tag arena, G Sector in Nungambakkam, owner Girish Subash kept up his promise of organising a tournament to spread awareness about lazer tag. Several enthusiasts got together and formed around 20 teams who faced each other in the smokey, neon room that now hosts nearly 400 players a week. The best shots from these teams banded together to form Neon Syndicate, which is now the official team of G Sector and is competing against teams from arenas around the world at an ongoing organisers’ meet in Dubai. “Girish is working towards forming a lazer tag federation. Post that, we will be inviting teams from different cities to participate in tournaments here,” says Abishek Rengasamy, the captain of Neon Syndicate who is a garments businessman by profession. And with youngsters between 15 and 25 refusing to put their blasters down on weekends, we’re quite confident this is just the boost the game needs. Sadly, we’ll have to wait till January 2016 for the federation to materialise.
|Abishek Rengasamy, 26, heads the young team of five that represents the G Sector arena in Nungambakkam|
Essentially a beach game, this modified version of volleyball has been around for years but reached our shores only earlier this year. In a matter of months, 25 teams of two each participated in a tournament this August, and since then, the community has been growing. “It actually started in the Ultimate Frisbee circle, so most of us play both,” says Harsha Vardhan, whose team was the runner up. “It has spread to Bengaluru too now and we are conducting a tournament in December that will see teams from both cities participate,” he adds. Though the Spikeball sets cost Rs 4,500 and have to be imported, enthusiasts are pooling in money to buy them and promote the sport, we’re told. “It is also spreading among the college crowd now and we plan to introduce it in schools next year,” says Vardhan, who is positive that this will become the next big sport to hit Chennai’s beaches.
|The city’s first Spikeball tournament this August saw 25 teams participating, and Harsha Vardhan, 23, and his teammate look forward to the next in December|
FUTSAL | tamil nadu titans
Governed by the Futsal Association of India, this modified version of football is much quicker than the original and with fewer players as well. Chennai has three Futsal arenas including one with a turf called Tiki Taka. “The game takes a bit of getting used to for regular football players,” says Haroon Sherif, the captain of the Tamil Nadu and Indian futsal teams. His Tamil Nadu Titans placed third at the country’s first national tournament that took place in Pune recently, while the India team also placed third at the Asia Cup that took place in Malaysia. “We are also looking at coming up with something like the ISL,” says Sherif, who runs a logistics company and is pursuing a degree through correspondence.
|Four years old in Chennai, Futsal’s Tamil Nadu and India teams are both headed by Haroon Sherif, 19, whose team placed third at the Asia Cup in Malaysia|