Volleyball icon Tom met his childhood idol, now a farmer, after 25 years

Tom Joseph
L-R: Tom Joseph with Roy achayan. Tom Joseph during his playing days.

The other day, Indian volleyball great Tom Joseph had a chance meeting with his childhood idol and he took to social media to share his excitement.

Tom shared the selfie he took – with a white-bearded man he introduced as 'Roy achayan' – when they met after more than 25 years a few days ago.

"I was at a youth championship in Thodupuzha and there, in the gallery, I saw my favourite player, one who showed me what volleyball was," Tom Joseph wrote on his Facebook page.

Tom, who was one of the finest spikers in Asia in his prime, was honoured with the Arjuna Award for his service to the game.

But 'Roy achayan' was "the reason I entered the world of volleyball".

Tom was instantly drawn to the sport after seeing the 'lightning smashes' of Roy in a local tournament.

"There was a volleyball court at my village, Poothampara. In my childhood, they hosted a tournament and I went there with my brother to watch it," Tom said.

He remembers standing in awe of the tall, bulky players, who resembled caprisoned temple elephants. "..once the whistle went smashes flew on either side."

"As soon as a ball set from a first pass was smashed past a pair of opposition players onto the first line by one player the gallery went in unison: "achaya."

"That smash from Roy achayan and those chants from the crowd are still in my mind." Tom was 11 then. Taking inspiration from there, Tom went on to become one of India's most capped players and a long-time captain.

"Every sports star will have an incident which remains fresh in memory. In my case, it was seeing Roy achayan play.”

Did he know the impact he had on you? “He came to me saying he played in a few tournaments in my hometown back then. I immediately recognised him told him he was my childhood hero. He was surprised and really happy,” said Tom, who is now coaching future stars.

Roy, who was a fan favourite in local tournaments in Kerala, is now a farmer. He is settled in Thodupuzha.

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