They all came to the volleyball court directly from the fields after handing their cattle to their friends to feed. They looked tired even before the match had begun. But as soon as the referee blew the whistle, their focus was on the match. Shuffling their bare feet to avoid the prickly stones, some of them were wearing Lungis while their rival team were in their sports uniforms.
They are not professional players but we don’t see any differences between the two teams as they start playing. They’re all tribals from the small village Timmapur of Adilabad district. Their team is popularly known as ‘Shepherds’ team’. Agriculture was the only thing that they knew few years back. But now they have another passion apart from their job. That is volleyball. It took them years to adopt modern sports culture.
“We learned this game from our children who study in the town. Initially we used to hit the ball too hard that it would often fall in the surrounding fields. But now even our children can’t beat us.” says 40-year-old team member Athram Sonerao. He loves to play volleyball and he is not the only one to love this sport from his village. Almost all his friends love sports like volleyball and Kho Kho.
They practice volleyball whenever they get time. Sometimes they also carry the ball to the fields. Tribal villages of Adilabad often organise tournaments for sports like Volleyball and Kabaddi. Surprisingly Cricket doesn’t have much popularity among the tribes. “Every year we have a Volleyball tournament in our village and we won the cup in the previous tournament,” said Sidam Maruti, a farmer from Keslapur village.
Shepherds’ team has a fan following in the surrounding villages. People love to watch their games. “We always support them and it’s fun to watch them play. Their way of playing is completely different from others,’ said Ashok, a school teacher from Utnoor.
None of the Shepherds’ team is educated. But they remember all the English terms of volleyball. Though they don’t know the meanings of the words they know how to use the words in the game. “We never went to school. We don’t even know what those terms mean. But we feel like we are Ked Kings (English Players) while playing Volleyball,” laughs Somu, the attacking player of Shepherds’ team.