Murali believes his sporting experience will be an advantage in politics.

A TN candidate goes from the football field to the political pitch
news TN 2016 Friday, April 29, 2016 - 18:01

Twenty-six-year-old Murali Shankar has been a fan of Liverpool Football Club since the age of 10. At one time, his only dream was to become a world renowned footballer. But instead of kicking-off at the football field, Murali now hopes to score on the political pitch this summer.

He will be contesting from his hometown of Harur in Dharmapuri district for the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK). “I joined politics because I really like Anbumani Ramadoss and the work he does for the people,” says Murali. Once an attacking midfielder, Murali’s goal now is to ensure the safety of women and increase employment opportunities for the people of his constituency.

Murali began playing football at the age of nine. He had been sitting at the school stadium missing his mother when his friend called him to play. But young Murali was quick to give up on the game when one of his schoolmates played too rough.  

Three months after refusing to get back onto the field, his football coach decided to take the matter into his hands. He forced young Murali to play, hoping it would drive out his fear. There was no looking back after that. At 17, he was part of the school football team and was participating in inter-school and state tournaments.   

Murali went onto play football in college and joined Bangalore Kickers, a football club in 2007. “In one season, I scored 14 goals,” says Murali proudly. But after being unable to qualify for the ‘Under-19’ Karnataka team, Murali shifted to New Delhi to pursue an MBA. With football being his first love, he joined a football academy in the capital and that’s when his dreams changed. “I was limping while playing when a young foreigner came up and asked me ‘what happened?’ I didn’t know then that it was Sacha Lizambard, one of the world’s best youth coaches,” he says.

After being diagnosed with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, his footballing career seemed over. “One of the biggest problems in India is once you get injured as a football player there is no insurance here like in other countries. No one will help you,” Murali confides. But with Lizambard’s help and blessing, he was recruited as the Assistant Technical Director by French football club, Paris Saint-Germaine. He was excited to be working under a world famous coach. “I had to design strategies, tactics, connect with the children and teach them how to play,” he says. Murali calls the days when he was working as an Assistant Technical Director as a “soul- satisfying experience.”

After six months, he was given an opportunity to shift to France. But his parents had other plans. They wanted him to run a supermarket back home.  He returned to Harur in October 2015. Shortly after, he accidently made his entry into politics when his relatives asked him if he wanted to contest for the upcoming Assembly Elections.

Murali believes his sporting experience will be an advantage in politics, noting that teamwork is important both on and off the football field. The former footballer says that the sport made him a better person, helping him stay focussed. “I do not drink or smoke, because I was always busy focusing on my game. I feel football is what has made me care for the people in the society, like we do in a football team,” he says.

And while Murali admits his dreams have changed, his love for football remains eternal. And yes, Murali tries to sneak in a game of football even on his campaign trail.

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