When Murali S moved to Delhi two years ago,it wasnt only a new city that he had to adjust to. An avid football player from Salem,Tamil Nadu,he had to get used to not kicking off every evening at the local ground. If I had been a badminton or tennis player,it would have been easier to find a partner to play. With football,one needs a team of 11 an impossible task in a new city, he says.
He had suffered a knee injury a couple of years ago,and subsequently piled on the kilos. An evening of football was high on his wish list. It was around this time that he came across GameOn India,an organisation that brings sports enthusiasts together to create a team and play. Now,Murali is a part of Merseyside Warriors team that recently played with Doon Wanderes at a friendly at Ambedkar Stadium,Delhi. Apart from a boost in health,the regular sports schedule has enabled me to make friends, says Murali.
Like Murali,many team sports enthusiasts in Delhi are getting to play together,courtesy organisations such as GameOn India. In Gurgaon,the six-month-old YourSportFix has organised several football,basketball and lawn tennis events,while Delhi-based Social Sports League has a packed tennis schedule and will have its first football season in October. We have noticed that an increasing number of Delhiites are interested in playing sports rather than just watching a late-night game on TV while guzzling beer, says Adnan Adeeb,founder of GameOn India,who moved to India from Dubai a year ago and found the social sports scene in Delhi almost non-existent. GameOn India boasts 1,000 members for football and cricket matches.
Games are held in local stadia and school grounds on weekend evenings,with the registration fees per game kept around Rs 100 to Rs 250. There is no membership fee in most cases. These social sports groups operate on a game-to-game basis or on a season basis,connecting mostly through social media and word-of-mouth. Only people above 21 are eligible for membership,with games and tournaments being designed for working professionals,who do not get time to take up sports full-time.
Ajay Gupta of Sport365 says that they also provide basic training to its members. Sport365 includes indoor recreational games such as bowling and darts besides outdoor sports such as football and basketball,and boasts around 500 regular members.
It is easy to find a partner to play a game of tennis or badminton,but harder to put together an entire team of players for a game of football, says Ishveen Jolly of the Delhi-based Social Sports League who also runs a firm that connects brands and communities through sports. Jolly explains that the concept of getting together for an evening of sport,followed by a night out at a local pub,is not new in the West. But in India,the concept is still new especially with respect to sports other than cricket, says the 27-year-old. Social Sports League,only a few months old,tries to bring together expats who are interested in sports,along with anyone else wanting to join. Among those who have signed up is Marina Azcarate,30,an ad professional from Spain. I have been in Delhi for five years,and have always wanted to play tennis seriously. I now have that platform, she says.