From Ashes To Glory, Dhillipan Wins The World Through Soccer
For those to whom two square meals in a day is a luxury, nurturing a dream is a challenge. Dhillipan knows a lot about leading a tough life, and the day to day struggle. But he is someone who never gave up hope even during the most testing times.
Dhillipan lost his father when his family was in a dire financial distress. His mother worked at a ‘Panipuri’ stall to support her two children. She saved every penny with the hope of ensuring a better future for her children. However, a fire broke out in their community. Standing in front of his house, he asks, “Have you ever seen your house getting charred, burning your dreams with every ember? I have”.
Having lost everything at the young age of 10, he dropped out of school to support his family. Still a child, he helped his mother and looked after his brother when at home. Brick by brick they re-built their home. During that period, he and his family stayed in the corporation school for two weeks and then stayed at the project office of Vyasarpadi Children Empowerment, CRY’s partner NGO who has been working intricately with the community, project office for three months.
Dhillipan’s mother has had a huge role in his life. When his father passed away, his mother worked extremely hard to take care of her children. She did everything possible to ensure her children don’t go to bed hungry. She started first by working as a street vendor and selling chocolate in front of schools.
“When we were really small, my mother used to make toys for other children to earn a living. We never felt bad because toys were a luxury which we never even dreamt about. She would do 2-3 types of work in a day. Seeing this from a very early age, we toughened up and I promised that when I grow up I will work hard to bring success and a better livelihood for my family,” Dhillipan reflects.
“I used to be outside the ground and watch other children play, and craved to have a chance to play soccer with them. Initially, I was shy, but the desire to play was overpowering. One day Master Thangaraj came to me and asked if I wanted to play. I ran away because I was so shy at that point of time,” says the young footballer. Dhillipan’s love for soccer started from the time he was five years old. Little did he know then that this sport would usher in success later.
At this juncture of his life, Master Thangaraj who is the project lead of Vyasarpadi Children Empowerment Project enrolled him in an aided school. Talent packaged with perseverance is a strong force and soon in class 7, he became the captain of the school team. This time the school paid his fees.
Master Thangaraj who introduced soccer in Dhillipan’s life, feels his passion and skill was special and set him apart from the other boys. “The confidence with which he kicked the ball when he was still very young and the perseverance he exhibited was amazing. During warm-up sessions he would never give up and continue running around the field when others couldn’t, showing unparalleled commitment towards the sport,” he said
Dhillipan attended the selections of the Chennai Football Association. He was among the 15 selected out of 300 children. It was just a matter of time before he was made the captain of the under-13 team. At a match in Dindigul, the TN Football Association noted his talent and took him into the state team.
Dhillipan easily mastered the basics. He went into the specific training modules at a very early age. He mastered the art of dribbling, blocking and volleys which have been the signature of his game so far.
His first coach Master Thangaraj reminisces, “Even though Dhillipan had a very difficult childhood, he never shared it with anyone. At times, when he was depressed, I used to tell him that everyone in their life faces problems, it is about channelising that energy to hard work which shall eventually ensure one’s success and that did for him.”
Today a 21-year-old, he runs his family from the earnings he gets from soccer introduced to him by Vyasarpadi Children Empowerment Project.
He first wore the national colours 12 years ago when he represented India in Bangladesh in 2006. Later, he played against Iran in 2007 (U14), Sri Lanka and Saudi in 2008 (U16). He also played Futsal for Tamil Nadu in 2017 and has been representing Chennayin FC for 2 years.
Today he proudly earns about Rs.20,000-22,000 per month, which is paid to him once in every quarter. He believes in motivating others, especially children with single parents. He also gives away his extra play materials.
A role model today, he draws his inspiration from Christiano Ronaldo and Lawrence who plays as a right wing player for Goa. Come October, Vyasarpadi will witness the tournament, ‘Shankara Buildpro CRY Soccer for Child Rights’ that has given an opportunity to many such children who want to showcase their talent, whilst continuing to be role models in their community.
Few stories have fairy tale endings, Dhillipan’s is one of them. Soccer was no more just a sport for him but a way of life.
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