Photographs courtesy of TEFA
As Tamil Eelam's football team arrives in Erbil, Kurdistan and get stuck into a heavy day of training for their first match in the VIVA 2012 World Cup, Tamil Guardian spoke to the organising body of the Tamileelam FA (TEFA) - Global Tamil Youth League (T-League).
Find more photographs of the team's journey and arrival in Erbil below.
Team Tamil Eelam's football shirts packed up and ready to go
Transcript of interview with Braveen Nagendram (BN), spokesperson for Global Tamil Youth League and member of Giovanni Tamil, Italy:
TG: We've been following the progress of team Tamil Eelam closely on Twitter and Facebook, but with the first match against Raetia tomorrow, where exactly is team Tamil Eelam now? Are they in Erbil, Kurdistan already?
BN: Yes they have arrived on Sunday, June 3rd in Erbil, Kurdistan.
TG: Ever since the TEFA team was announced there has been much interest and hype surrounding the team with Tamils worldwide, young and old, thrilled to hear that a Tamil Eelam football team will be competing in an international world cup, how are the players feeling and coping with the excitement?
BN: Yes, we are getting many greetings and wishes from the Eelam Tamil diaspora living all over the world. The players are definitely excited. We can see that a lot especially through their social media feeds. They mark this as a historic opportunity to represent their motherland in an international arena. Parents and relatives are also very supportive of their children playing in this tournament. Overall, we can see that the Tamils all over the world have been yearning for a football team that they can call their own.
TG: TEFA was a project announced by T-League earlier this year, how did the idea first arise?
BN: Well the idea of establishing a Tamileelam Football Association was actually brought from Canada. The Athletics Council Director of Canadian Tamil Youth Alliance, Janarthan Sadacharalingam, presented the idea at the 2nd Annual Global Tamil Youth Conference. The idea was well received by all the member organizations of T-League. At the conference, 3 coordinators were appointed by T-League to coordinate this project for VIVA 2012. Ragesh Nambiar from Tamil Youth Organisation - UK, Jeevan Vijayakumaran from Tamil Youth Organisation - Switzerland were the other two appointed coordinators of Tamileelam F.A.
TG: Excitement is already building with many Tamil kids wanting to know when they are in with a chance to be part of the Tamil Eelam football team. Do you know when the next VIVA World Cup will be?
B: The next VIVA World Cup will be taking place in Sweden in 2014.
TG: The 2012 TEFA team is made up of players from Canada, UK and Switzerland, looking forward, are you as T-League and TEFA planning to include players from other countries?
BN: Most definitely. We did try to reach out to many of the other talented Eelam Tamil Diaspora athletes living in different countries through our member groups. However, due to time constraints, we couldn't give all the players the time they needed to prepare themselves for the international tour. In the upcoming years through T-League, Tamileelam F.A. will open up more opportunities for more talented athletes.
TG: The excitement around the Tamil Eelam boys has left many girls asking when they too can represent the nation at an international level, does T-League have plans of organising a team of Tamil Eelam girls for an international sporting tournament?
BN: Some of our member organizations have been working to build solid foundations for women to be involved in sports. T-League will continue to assist our member groups in ecouraging women athletes. When the opportunity arise for participating in a women's international tournament, T-League will definitely work towards that goal. We also encourage the women athletes to get involved with our member groups in each countries and be role-models to the upcoming athletes.
TG: Will Tamil Eelam win?
BN: We are looking forward to it!
Players from Canada fly out of Toronto
Touch down at Erbil International Airport, Kurdistan