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Journey from battlefield to playfield

sports Updated: Aug 20, 2009 02:11 IST
Anupma Tripathi
Anupma Tripathi
Hindustan Times

A Tamil playing for the Sri Lanka national team and we are not talking cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan here. Step forward S Sathiswaran.

A striker, Sathiswaran has spent 23 of his first 26 years in Jaffna, once a stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a place he said was once a “constant battleground.”

Sathiswaran lost his father at three and to keep the family going, his mother eventually went to Oman to work as a domestic. “She went in 1993 and stayed there for 10 years leaving behind me, my brother and two sisters,” Sathiswaran told HT on Wednesday.

“We would spend many days and nights without electricity and water. We were not supposed to venture out in night. Those were the most difficult days of my life,” he said. Football was the only thing he looked forward to. Sathiswaran took to it in school and in 2006, it changed his life. “ I came to Colombo to meet my uncle. That was the first time I saw a big city. I joined a second division club. It was while practising a couple of months ago that national coach (Sampath Perera) spotted me and gave me a national call.”

Perera, who played for Mohun Bagan in 1997-98, said it’s difficult to be a footballer in Sri Lanka. “Things have improved now but it still is way behind India in terms of professionalism. Most clubs don’t even pay footballers,” Perera said. On Sathiswaran the coach said: “He is a rare player from Jaffna. Not too many kids come up from that region. He joined us a month back and has a bright future.”

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