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Vol. XXXI No. 6, July 1-15, 2021

CRV and football could never be separated

by S.R. Suryanarayan


C.R. Visswanathan.

In the passing away of C.R. Visswanathan, Tamil Nadu football, nay, Indian football it can be said, has lost a doyen. It was in Tamil Nadu that he had put his heart and soul to prop up the sport and also improve the lot of footballers. A businessman with a textile engineering background, CRV, as he was popularly known, could have lived his life in Coimbatore from where he hailed. But football was a passion for this large-hearted man, more so after taking to this sport in his college days. The knowledge of the sport and its nuances helped him in the later years as his ambition grew and attention turned towards administration.

It is not wrong to say that football could have been a reason too in his shift to Chennai. As subsequent developments showed, CRV who had presided over the Coimbatore Football Association earlier, slowly but surely found his footing in football matters in the metropolis and thereby the state too. He served as Secretary and then President of both the Chennai and Tamil Nadu Football Association over the years. Perhaps his biggest contribution to the state was his effort to help Chennai have such a beautiful and modern facility as the Nehru Stadium which was built adhering to all the stipulations laid out by FIFA, the world football body. This is the only stadium of its kind in India. It was Visswanathan’s single-minded dedicated effort that brought about the transformation of the erstwhile Corporation stadium to this spectacle of modernity. Of course he had the full support of the state government with J. Jayalalithaa as chief minister.

What followed was a dream phase for football fans in the metropolis with Chennai getting confirmed as an international football venue. The 1993 Nehru Cup tournament provided the first excitement and two years later fans got to witness India’s gold-medal effort win in the football event of the SAF Games in this grand setting. Pre-Olympic and pre-World Cup football events came to the city and then of course the Jayalalithaa Gold Cup Women’s International Football Tournament. In fact in the 90s talk of any international fixture in India would immediately bring Chennai into the picture. The then Secretary of the All India Football Federation Mr Alberto Colaco would vouch for the wonderful ambience at the Nehru stadium.

Visswanathan’s enthusiasm for the sport saw him raise his involvement to the national level. He had served as a Vice President of the AIFF and was the chairman of the national body’s Technical Committee at one time. Besides he had travelled several times with the national team as Manager. CRV would often enjoy talking of his experience with the national team that went to the 1986 Merdeka Games in Jakarta. Legendary P.K. Banerjee, “PK’ to all, happened to be the team coach. The vibes with him, the way the team performed, the reception on beating a strong team like South Korea were things that triggered great delight in CRV as he narrated. Not surprisingly when he heard of PK’s death last year, he felt he had lost some one close to him.

Much after he had moved away from all his active roles in football administration and when he was well into his eighties he would still keep in touch with some of his former colleagues in the Association to remain abreast of football affairs and their welfare. The pandemic proved a great dampener. He could not get to meet people at his home. Like everyone he too had been longing for better times. But the end was sudden – a heart attack. CRV is gone but his services for football in general and Tamil Nadu in particular will long be remembered.

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