Manorama Club Award 2023: A Wayanad club sowing the seeds of sports revolution

Darsana Arts and Sports Club
Darsana Arts and Sports Club office-bearers, trainees and well-wishers. Photo: Manorama

Sulthan Bathery: It was the British who brought football to Wayanad's tea plantations in the mid-19th century. Ever since, the beautiful game has ingrained itself into the local culture as the passion for football grew exponentially with the passage of time, captivating the hearts of local people. 

At Paplassery, a village of farmers who migrated from the southern districts of the state, the colonial rulers set up a football field and the youngsters in the area kicking and passing the ball and spending the better part of evenings around the ground became a usual sight.

Founded in 1994 by a group of youngsters at Azheekodan Nagar at Paplassery, Darsana Arts and Sports Club, one of the three finalists for the Manorama Sports Club Award 2023, has done a lot to popularise various sporting disciplines in the locality. The club has also been a catalyst for social transformation in this socially and economically backward region.

In the beginning, Darsana Arts and Sports Club also had a drama troupe which staged a series of plays on various social issues. Last year, the club's activities came to a halt when the owner of the vacant plot where it functioned fenced the property and asked the club members to stop using the ground. 

Remarkably, the entire village stood behind the club and explored ways to buy a new property for the club. In January, 2023, the villagers conducted a host of crowd-funding initiatives such as 'one-cent sponsor' and a biriyani challenge to support the club. Meanwhile, a local resident, Arakkal Beekkutty Umma, donated her one-acre property to the club. Two others, Aboobacker and Sudheesh, also offered 10 cents of plots each. Once the club administrators decided to set up a sports academy on the 1.20-acre property, contributions started pouring in from various quarters.

The villagers, including Kudumbashree members, daily-wagers, farm labourers, and government employees joined hands and donated money to realise the dream of having a sports academy in the area. 

With the pooled money in hand, the club started construction works of the academy without any delay. The work on a football ground, volleyball and badminton courts, cricket pitch, bowling nets, swimming pool, health club, and office buildings is nearing completion. The club also has plans to establish a mini park and a walkway for the elderly.  

The academy is committed to boost sports in the region and unearth hitherto unknown talents for the future. Besides, every Sunday, the club conducts competitions for women and the elderly to promote traditional rural games. Special programmes are also being organised to impart training to tribal children.    

The academy's immediate goal is enabling its trainees to attend state and national level competitions at school and college levels.

Some of the top players who burst through the ranks of Darsana Arts and Sports Club are Abhishek, the best performer at the state polytechnic athletic meet, Kerala Police football team member Shakeer, Wayanad district U-17 football team player Vaiga S Nair, and Vinayakan, champion of the district-level Keralolsavam competitions.

The children are trained by Prasad, a former individual champion at the Wayanad district police athletic meet. "Healthy people are the biggest asset of the nation," is the motto of Darsana Arts and Sports Club.

Currently, as many as 120 children are undergoing training at the academy. According to club president T S Nandapoan and secretary P R Laiju, efforts are on to provide free training to children in track and field disciplines as well.

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