More than 900 people from eight cities in three different countries gather for a community soccer tournament in Melbourne
Soccer is truly the world game. Everyone has played a game in their backyard or at the local park, cheered on their team live at a stadium or watched a match on television. What could be better than having a fully-fledged Seaway Kshatriya Soccer World Cup contest at a stadium that can hold hundreds of fans and enthusiasts in Melbourne?
The Kshatriya Society of Melbourne Australia (KSMA), which formed in 2005, proved that a small community of 200 can put on an amazing and all-inclusive soccer tournament over Easter in Doncaster East. Though this was a soccer event, it aimed to be a family affair that allowed people to reconnect with fellow Kshatriyas who have dispersed across Australasia, but can still trace their origins to five villages in Gujarat.
In 2000, the Kshatriya communities in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji started conducting soccer tournaments every two years with the intention of allowing families to come together and reunite with their friends. In 2010, a cricket competition was added (much to the satisfaction of most Indians!) with KSMA the inaugural host, and till today they alternate between cricket and soccer every year.
“These occasions allow our family to meet others from our hometown and catch up on news from their part of the world,” remarked one spectator. With eight teams, plus four veteran teams, taking to the field, this competition was not to be missed. Over 900 people travelled from interstate (Brisbane and Sydney), Fiji (Ba, Lautoka, Nadi and Suva), New Zealand (Auckland), and other parts of the world to join their hosts in Melbourne to take part and cheer for their team.
In addition to the host committee organising Bhangra, a touch of spice was added to the opening ceremony with a sensational freestyle act by South African local hero Kamal Ranchod. As a finalist in the Red Bull Street Style World Championship in 2010, he displayed an impressive performance showing great skill and tricks with the soccer ball. I was amazed by how long he managed to keep the ball off the ground! This inspirational demonstration surely invigorated the players.
Whilst the community encourages players to act with admirable sportsmanship, on the field the teams sure did put up a fight. The society regard themselves as members from the second Varna (social class), Kshatriya. Historically, members typically consisted of warriors or rulers.
They were mainly located in northern India and are renowned for upholding justice and social harmony by taking on governance and military positions. In true Kshatriya style, the soccer players’ demeanour and presence on the pitch definitely showcased great strength, courage and perseverance. “It is great to see the budding soccer players incorporate all their skills and effort into the match and enhance the communal atmosphere,” said Ranjit, a member of the Melbourne KSMA committee.
As the competition progressed, notable moments happened on-field. The Melbourne team obtained a spot in the semi- finals with a 2-1 victory by securing a goal in the last few seconds of the game. Auckland also managed to draw 2-2 in great style in the last minute of extra time to push the game into penalty kicks.
Nonetheless, it was an exceptionally competitive tournament with both the main competition and the veterans’ finals going into a penalty shootout. The victor for the main competition was Auckland and the victor for the veterans’ competition was Brisbane.
The runners up for both competitions were Ba and Melbourne respectively. “Even at their level, the competitors took great interest in the tournament and wanted to make sure that the spectators had a great time too,” said an audience member at the closing Gala Dinner night. Many Melburnian volunteers donated their time and effort to make their guests feel welcome with food, performances and warm hospitality.
And as no Indian event can be organised without food, over the four-day spectacular, 3000 plates of lunch were served incorporating a fusion of Greek, Indian and Asian flavours (the ultimate Melbourne food experience). Further, to assist those adapting to the cool changes in Melbourne’s unpredictable weather during the final two days of the competition, 3000 cups of masala tea were served.
All committee members deserve praise for their efforts in organising and coordinating such a large-scale event. This event has galvanised the Kshatriya community further in the Australasian region with the next soccer tournament happening in Nadi in 2018. Old friendships re-kindled, new friendships formed and, most importantly, the younger generation connected with each other and maintained the Kshatriya community comradery.