The Tamil Eelam Football squad. From left to right: Ragesh Nambiar, Menan Nagulendran, Gajan Premkumar, Pushpalingam Kandavanam, Sanjev Jayaingam, Janarthan Sadacharalingam, Lakshman Vairavamoorthy, Arun Vigneswararajah, Mahy Nambiar, Rathish Nalliah, RoshBiraveen Nallathamby, Kirishanth Thavarajah
Photographs courtesy of Global Tamil Youth League.
The national football team of Tamil Eelam played their first international match against Raetia at the Franso Hariri Stadium in Iraqi Kurdistan. After a tightly contested match, which was dominated by Tamil Eelam, Raetia won 1:0, after a late goal by Marcus Dudler.
As the match wasn’t broadcast live, Tamils around the world kept up-to-date, using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with the match. Around 30 local Tamils, working in Erbil, turned up to support their team, donning the national flag of Tamil Eelam.
Tamil Eelam had first kick-off and dominated in the opening quarter, while Raetia had some good chances towards the end of the first half. The Tamil Eelam defence line worked hard to fight off the Raetians and the first half ended with no goals scored on either side. Midfielder Gajan Premkumar received a yellow card, making him the first Tamil Eelam player in history to be booked in an international game.
The second half was dominated by Tamil Eelam, who narrowly missed more chances to score. A harsh foul on defender Pushpalingam Kandavanam led to a free kick which was saved by Raetia’s keeper. Defender Lakshman Vairavamoorthy also received a yellow card for a foul on a Raetian.
In the 85th minute Raetian player Marcus Dudler scored a screamer from 25 yards into the top corner of the goal, way out of reach of Tamil Eelam keeper Selvananthan Hariendran, who had been making remarkable saves throughout the game.
The match referee told Tamil Eelam manager Ragesh Nambiar that he thought Tamil Eelam deserved to win and that it had been “painful” to watch them lose. Jean-Luc Kit, the Secretary General of the NFB also said that he was “impressed” by the team’s performance.
The Tamil fans in the stadium approached the players to say that they were proud just to see the flag flying, to hear the national anthem, and to watch the Tamil Eelam team play. They were eager to pose for pictures with the team after the match and promised to return for tomorrow’s match against Zanzibar.
(Identities of the Tamil fans in Erbil have been concealed, after they expressed fears over the safety of their families in the North-East)
Arun Vigneswararajah, one of the best players on the pitch, was touched by the response of the fans.
“Although we are disappointed by the loss, the amazing response by our fans in the stadium and around the world made this a memorable day, which we will remember for the rest of our lives. Especially the guys in the stadium made this experience unforgettable."
One local fan, who requested to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said:
“We are so happy and proud of our youth, who do things that we, as temporary workers here, cannot do. We wish them well for their match tomorrow and will be back to support them tomorrow against Zanzibar.”
Messages of support and encouragement from all over the world have not stopped flooding in. Since its creation last week, the Facebook page for the Tamil Eelam FA has gained over 1,800 followers from around the world and is steadily growing.
On Twitter @S4NK33 was glad to finally have “a team to call ours”, and @LaxanaPaskaran said “to be able to represent Tamil Eelam on any stage is an absolute honour!” During the match @NavTERaju tweeted “remember to roar on the field!” After the full result @TharshannR said “no matter what you made us proud boys” and @Silverbackape encouraged them to “keep up the morale”.
Meanwhile on Tamil Eelam FA’s Facebook page, not a single post went amiss with fans eager to be kept in the loop and to show their support.
Despite being unable to watch the match, and despite the result of the game, the resounding message of Tamil Eelam FA’s support base rings clear. Regardless of the outcome, the first ever Tamil Eelam squad have no doubt made their mark in the international arena, but more importantly in the hearts of the nation. It is fitting then, that the word used most commonly to describe feelings towards Team Tamil Eelam is “proud.”
Tomorrow Tamil Eelam faces Zanzibar, one of the favourites to win the tournament. The match is scheduled to kick off at 20:30 AST.