Around the 1940s and 50s, the then youngsters of Kayalpatnam were playing various games, more popularly football, in any open space they could find around this village. As the village grew, and open spaces were taken by residential buildings, they congregated around an open disused pond, the "Pakeeran Kulam" (Fakir's Pond), which they covered up with debris from demolished houses, filled it with sand, and used it as their playground. And they formed themselves into a single entity and named it "UNITED SPORTS CLUB".
The Club was registered in 1955 under the Socities Registration Act, and was affiliated to the (then) Tirunelveli District Football, Volleyball and Badminton Associations. The patta lands around the lake was bought and a large ground of about 4 acres was formed. Separate grounds and courts for various sports were carved out, along with a children's playpen, recreation pastime for the elderly and a health club and gymnasium for all.
Tournaments in various sports were conducted at the local and district levels, especially in football, the most popular sport, which developed from District level to State level. M/s Dharangadhara Chemical Works Ltd, Sahupuram, situated nearby, sponsored the early tournaments with the "DCW Shield" for the winners. Tournaments were also conducted in Badminton and Volleyball, and more recently, in Cricket, which has become the craze of modern youth, with the active support of the respective District Associations.
On National Holidays, we conduct various games involving local and regional sportspersons. On Republic Day (January 26), we conduct a 32 km. cycle race in the morning and a Kite show in the afternoon. On Independence Day (August 15), we conduct a 10km. mini marathon.
In 1974, the Football Tournament was upgraded to the National Level, with the kind permission of the All India Football Federation and Tamilnadu Football Association, and two new trophies were instituted; the MOULANA ABULKALAM AZAD CUP for the Winners and the LKS JEWELLERS, TIRUCHY, CUP for the Runners-up. Notable winners of these trophies were Army Service Centre, Hyderabad and Sikh Regimental Centre, Meerut (1974); Punjab Special Police, Hoshiarpur (1976); Madras Engineering Group, Bangalore; Madras Sporting Union, Chennai (2003); Keltron Footbal Club, Cannanore (2004); and Integrated Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai (2005).
Since the playground was an old disused pond, it became inundated during the rainy seasons, for which we had to suspend all sporting activities for three years (2000 - 2002) and we carried out a major renovation work; raising the whole ground for about two feet, and relaying it with red gravel. The Azad Trophy Football Tournament was resumed in 2003.
Apart from Sports, the club members are also engaged in various other fields, mainly education, health and medical care, social activities and calamity assistances.
In education, we actively co-operate with the management, staff and students of the LK Group of schools, to whom we lend freely the grounds for their sports, and from whose alumni we draw our young talent. For the past 12 years, we conduct the LK LEBBAI THAMBY MEMORIAL Football Tournament for Schools, in memory of the school's founder and one of our earlier patrons. We also provide educational assitance and scholarship to poor and needy students.
In the health and medical fields, (i) we have conducted free Eye camps with the active co-operation of the Aravind Eye Hospital, Madurai and Tirunelveli, where we sponsor cataract operations to hundreds of the indigent (ii) free General Medical Camp, sponsored by M/s Dharangadhara Chemical Works Ltd, Sahupuram (iii) free Heart-care Medical Camp, where people with heart problems were diagnosed and proper treatment advised, and in case of the indigent, sponsored by us.
In the social field, we participate in all sorts of activities involving our local populace, without distinction of religion, caste or creed. During times of calamities of various nature, (i) our members rise to the occasion we organised a local collection funds for the National Defence Fund; (ii) in 1965, during the Indo-Pak War, heeding to the call of our then Premier Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, we organised and actively campaigned for donation of gold ornaments from the local public towards the National Gold Bond Scheme; (iii) in 1977, when cyclone struck the coasts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, our members then residing in Bombay (Mumbai), collected through their friends and business associates, and also by screening the then latest film, THE DAY OF THE JACKAL, a sum of Rupees 1.5 lakhs, and donated through the Maharastra Government; (iv) For the Gujarat earthquake of 2000, we collected locally and donated through the Government of Tamil Nadu, Rs.50,000; (v) During the Tsunami Disaster, we have collected and are continuing to collect money and material for rehabilitation for the survivors.
In 1967, we constructed at the southern end of our ground a pavilion and balcony for general use, named after Mr.D.A. Peter, local School Physical Education Teacher, and the ever-active Organiser of all our sports activities and functions, who met his sudden and untimely demise in a road accident in 1964. In this D.A. Peter Pavilion, we have located our club office, and a library. A lot of dignitaries, national and state leaders have come to our club and addressed the public from the balcony. Notable among them are: His Excellency President Shri R.Venkatraman (when he was Union Defence Minister in 1980), Honourable Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi, in October 1988, Thiru M. Karunanidhi (1973) and Thiru M.G. Ramachandran (1983), Chief Ministers; and various State Ministers, District Collectors and Superintendents of Police during their presiding over our sport functions.
The Annual All India Football Tournament for the Moulana Abulkalam Azad Trophy is the pinnacle of all our activities, when leading teams from all over are invited to participate, with their travelling and daily allowances being met by us; the revenue for which is borne by our members who contribute their mite for the successful conduct of this competitive sporting event. Even then, these are being conducted under stringent financial restraints.
We therefore make our fervent appeal to the sports-loving business community and corporate business and financial institutions to take up co-sponsorship of at least a part of our expenses, mostly the travel and daily allowances of the participating teams, and the awards to the eventual Winners and Runners-up
An interview with Mr.L.Gani, President and Mr.P.S.A. Pallak Lebbe, the Secretary, United Sports Club (USC).
Kayalpatnam.com>Briefly tell us how and when did the United Sports Club and Moulana Abul Kalam Azad tournament come about?
Mr.L.Gani and Mr.Pallak Lebbe>The origin of United Sports Club goes back to 1940s and 1950s. A group of youngsters who were making use of any vacant space in Kayalpatnam for sporting activities started using an open disused pond - 'Pakeeran Kulam' - as their playing ground. They gave themselves the name 'United Sports Club'. This Club was formally registered under the Societies Registration Act in 1955.
Right from the beginning, tournaments were conducted at the USC regularly at local and district levels. For sometime, football events for 'DCW Shield' were also conducted. In 1974, the football tournament was upgraded to All India Level and new trophies were instituted: the MOULANA ABULKALAM AZAD CUP for the winners and the LKS JEWELLERS, TIRUCHY CUP for the Runners-up.
Kayalpatnam.com>In 41 or so years for which the tournamnet had been held, what would you describe as the highlights - in terms of top teams participation, challenges you had to face etc?
Mr.L.Gani and Mr.Pallak Lebbe>Many prominent teams have won this cup. This includes Army Service Centre, Hyderabad, Sikh Regimental Centre, Meerut, Punjab Special Police, Hoshiarpur, Madras Engineering Group, Bangalore, Titanium Football Club, Thiruvananthapuram, Keltron Football Club, Cannannore and Integrated Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai.
The main challenges we face includes organising the teams participation and the tight budget within which we have to work. The travel plans have to be co-ordinated. There would be some cancellation of participants at the last moment. We have to be prepared for all that. Sometimes an election may force to alter our schedule. Some other time - it could be a local event.
Kayalpatnam.com>Conducting a tournament like this in a small town like Kayalpatnam would require lot of efforts [getting teams here, managing the logistics etc]. How many days or weeks does it take to put this thing all together every year?
Mr.L.Gani and Mr.Pallak Lebbe>We normally begin the work in January every year. There is a process we have to go through. Through the District office, we have to approach the Tamil Nadu Football Association. Then we have to apply to All India Football Federation. The main work would begin in April.
For selection of teams, there are few options for us. We enquire about the quality of teams (based on performance etc) with people in various organisations. Based on that, we choose the teams.
Kayalpatnam.com>With plenty of entertainment sources these days on TV (including Sports channels) and popularity of Cricket, does this tournament still attract same kind of fervour and attention as it used to in the past?
Mr.L.Gani and Mr.Pallak Lebbe>Football has its own craze and following. We do not think Cricket has - in any way - dented that.
Kayalpatnam.com>Sporting events worldwide have many dimensions to it. One is the quality of entertainment they provide. There is also the inflow of revenue through sponsorships, advertisements, local tourism benefits etc. Another aspect is the benefit to the community in terms of inspiring the youth to excellence in sports etc. According to you, what benefits does Kayalpatnam get in conducting this tournament every year?
Mr.L.Gani and Mr.Pallak Lebbe>It is purely an entertainment - a clean evening-out for many. Since it is conducted in May, the Summer holidays, a lot of people living outside Kayalpatnam look forward to this event.
Kayalpatnam.com>How much does it cost to conduct a tournament like this? How does USCraise those funds for the tournament?
Mr.L.Gani and Mr.Pallak Lebbe>It costs about Rs. 4 lakhs to stage this event. It is going up every year! The expenditure is primarily the money spent on the teams - their travelling allowance, daily allowance, Way side expenses etc. Since it is an All-India tournament, the Railways charge only 25% of the fare. Accommodation is provided at the USC and also at the Elkay School. The main source of revenue is the sale of season tickets - especially in places like Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Sri Lanka. In fact, in the early days, we started sale of season tickets in Colombo - where a lot of Kayalpatnam natives had settled for business. They would pay for the season tickets there and it would be delivered to their homes in Kayalpatnam. Donations from individuals and companies are also received for the tournament.
Kayalpatnam.com>How many spectators can USC seat during a match? What percentage does gate collections contribute to the overall source of fund for the event?
Mr.L.Gani and Mr.Pallak Lebbe> Gallery could seat about 600 people, chairs about 80 people. About 2000 people can stand or squat and watch. Majority of the collection is through season tickets only (about 80-90%). No season tickets are issued for the standing/squatting section.
Kayalpatnam.com>Apart from the Annual Soccer Tournament, what are the other sporting activities at USC?
Mr.L.Gani and Mr.Pallak Lebbe>We also play host to L.K. Lebbai Thamby Memorial Football Tournament for schools, conducted by L.K.Group of Schools. We have conducted Badminton and Volleyball Tournaments in the past. We are also active in education, health and medical care, social care, calamity assitances etc.
Kayalpatnam.com>What are the top teams taking part this year? When does the tournament start and end this year? What is the prize money?
Mr.L.Gani and Mr.Pallak Lebbe>We have this year teams like Goa State Juniors, Milin Bitti from Kolkata, RCF Jalandhar participating. This year - the tournament starts on May 10th and ends on May 28th. The prize money is Rs.25,000 for the winning team and Rs.20,000 for the Runners-up.
Kayalpatnam.com>What are the future plans for USC - in terms of infrastructure and activities?
Mr.L.Gani and Mr.Pallak Lebbe>We have space constraint as for as expanding the Infrastructure. There are major roads on three sides. We have also the mosque at one end and a burial ground. There is also the question of funds. We have to make best use of the existing facility.
Prime Minister Hon'ble Shri Rajiv Gandhi and Smt Sonia Gandhi visited United Sports Club, Kayalpatnam on 4th October 1988. He was accompanied by Haji V.M.S.Lebbai, President - Kayalpatnam Town Panchayat.
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