Express News Service
THOOOTHUKUDI: In what is desperately needed to boost the growing popularity of hockey in Tamil Nadu, two players from the state have been selected into the 20-member national men’s senior team to compete in the Asian Cup in Indonesia between May 23 and June 1. The selections of S Mareeswaran (21) from Kovilpatti and S Karthi (20) from Ariyalur ended an 11-year drought for TN, as no player from the state was part of the men’s national team of the sport during the period.
Both Mareeswaran, who plays in the midfield, and Karthi, the striker, have been trained at the Sports Hostel of Excellence (SHE) in Kovilpatti, which operates under the supervision of the Tamil Nadu Sports Development Authority (SDAT). While studying at SHE, Mareeswaran studied at the Government College of Art in Kovilpatti. After fainting in 2021, he got a job as an auditor at the Chennai Chief Accounting Office, through a sports quota. Karthi is a third-year student at SS Duraisamy Mariammal Arts College near Kovilpatti.
Speaking to TNIE, C Guru Chithra Shanmugabarathi, secretary of the Thoothukudi hockey unit, said the news brought immense satisfaction. This will encourage more young people from the region to make the district, the state and the state proud.
“I expected them to play with India’s junior national team last year, unfortunately none of them were shortlisted for the final round,” he added.
The guru also praised the state government’s efforts to establish the Astro Turf hockey stadium in Kovilpatti back in 2017 and attributed the success to it.
“Earlier, our players could not shine in national tournaments because they trained on gravel pitches and then played games on synthetic grass. Astro Turf Stadium met the needs and expelled talented players for the India Squad from Kovilpatti,” he said. Kovilpatti is already known as a cult place for hockey in the state, as he has contributed to many players in the state and national teams over the years.
N Muthukumar, SDAT hockey coach at SHE, who coached both Mareeswaran and Karthi, told TNIE that despite coming from poor backgrounds, the two showed good performance with absolute attention and dedication to the sport.
Having represented the national team on several occasions, the two have been to national coaching camps in Bengaluru for the past two years, he said, adding that their excellent performances at national matches and coaching camps would catch the eye of selectors and give them a well-deserved chance.
The parents of Mareeswaran – Sakthivel and Sankareswari, who worked in safety match factories and as day laborers, said they were happy to know their son would play for India. “I know he is talented. He should cheer up our country and also participate in the Olympics,” Sankareswari said.
Similarly, S Karthi’s father Selvam, a security guard at a state college, is in boundless euphoria. Karth’s mother is a housekeeper. “I bought him hockey sticks by borrowing money from a friend, just to encourage him in a game he liked,” Selvam told TNIE.
The last Tamil Nadu players to represent India’s men’s national team in any age category were Gunasekar of Tiruchy and Naveen of Chennai, who played for India’s men’s junior team at the 2011 Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia.
CM welcomes Mareeswaran and Karthi
Chennai: Chief Minister MK Stalin on Wednesday welcomed S. Mareeswaran and Karthi of Ariyalur. “I wish you both success, not only at the Asian Cup but also at the 2024 Paris Olympics,” the chief minister said in a message.