Once upon a time, many centuries ago, a governor with great political ambition made Aurangabad the womb of his military might. Asif Jah used it well to expand his empire to the South, establishing the Deccan empire that spread roots and became the princely state of Hyderabad. As unlikely as it might seem for a hotbed of sporting ambition, the Elite Football League of India (EFLI) is reinventing a bit of history in assembling its warriors in this sleepy southern town in the state of Maharashtra.
It is a mighty task introducing a new sport in a diverse country like India, deeply united by its blind passion for cricket. But the EFLI is bleeding with faith and driven by a grand vision to script a new story for the youth of our bustling nation.
After successfully running trials last season, the league is back with a bang, assembling some of their best talent at the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University. The EFLI is busy conducting a camp for its quarter backs, a critical cog in the arsenal of the team.
The league draws heavily from the success of this engaging, intensely physical sport from the USA. In the hope to replicate the journey, EFLI has assembled as many as 24 teams, including two from Pakistan and Sri Lanka to develop the sport in India.
Head Coach Thimmaiah Madanda is putting his wards through the paces under the watchful eyes of Mike and Sean, two established coaches who have travelled all the way from America to train the players on the league.
“EFLI has given opportunity to coaches and players to pursue a very challenging and exciting sport,” he says. “It takes great hand eye co-ordination and the excitement of contact sport is a proven high for spectators. Besides physical ability, it takes a good sense of position and awareness of the state of play. So it is not only about being tough, but just as much about being smart.”
Thimmaiah is working tirelessly with the 24 coaches of the teams to identify and harness talent at the university level to lay a strong foundation for the future of the sport.
It is already established that the time is ripe for league sport in India, with the success of cricket, hockey, football and above all kabaddi inspiring belief that the market is there for the takers.
The present camp in Aurangabad is aimed at developing the quarterback of each team into the warrior that he is meant to be. Farming resources and directing the course of play, the QB has a major role to play in the fortunes of any American Football team.
Even as they are being equipped with the intelligence and skills they need to run the game well, the EFLI also believes that the time spent together will help establish bonds among coaches and players and promote team building in the months to come.
The typical QB has broad shoulders, ability to throw the ball deep and a smart brain. This form of football also needs a quick pair of legs and a heart strong enough to take on the bulk of their opponents.
It is an exciting time for everyone in the EFLI camp. There are 48 players, two each from 24 teams training and sweating in the summer heat of the Marathwada town, with dreams in their eyes and passion in their heart.
Not too long from now, we can all watch these young men take to the field and run us down with their skill and charm. Aurangabad turned out to be an inspired choice for the Nawabs of Hyderabad, the EFLI is no doubt hoping that they can repeat history and create a new sporting empire.