Often, women and girls playing sports in India get a raw deal due to social and physical constraints. But this village in Kerala is breaking gender barriers with volleyball.
Namakuzhy in Kochi has been the true powerhouse of the game and holds a distinction in producing some of the best volleyball players in the country.
It all started in 1957 when George Varghese, a volleyball coach and a reputed player of the past, joined as a trainer at the Namakuzhy school. He is credited for creating many volleyball geniuses from the school.
Kerala’s earliest players include the popular ‘Namakuzhy sisters’ including VK Saramma, PK Eliyamma and KC Elamma who played a crucial role in setting the state on the map as a volleyball hotspot.
The school in Namakuzhy gradually became famous for women's volleyball With Elamma as the brightest face. With their performance, they took the women's volleyball in Kerala to surging heights. From them, Elamma secured a place in the state senior team. Women players from other states began to imitate the Namakuzhy girls who planned and played.
The Namakuzhy team was inducted into Kerala police in 1972. Job and training were in Thiruvananthapuram. The police team captained by Elamma performed spectacularly in and outside Kerala. She and the team brought many trophies including the national championship trophy to Kerala Police.
After the period of Namakuzhy sisters, there was a lull in sports in the place. Soon Jomon, a relative of two of Eliyamma and Saramma, took himself to revive the place to the world of sports.
Jomon is currently a football coach with the Sports Authority of India (SAI). Keeping up with his family’s tradition of breaking barriers in sports, he was instrumental in creating a women’s football team in Namakuzhy.
While the parents were reluctant to send their daughters for training, it changed slowly after a children’s football camp for football was set.
Jomon’s efforts to revive sports doesn’t end there. He also started a women’s football team in Kottayam district’s Mevallor, 10 kilometres away from Namakuzhy, when he joined as a physical education teacher at the Kunjiraman Memorial High School. This played a major role in the Sports Authority of India’s decision to allow a training centre for women’s football to be set up there.
Today, the members of the women’s football camp in Namakuzhy provide coaching to young children, both boys and girls and are hoping to make many more such stars in the future.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)