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S Mariappan: Man who helped 33 girls, displaced by Tsunami, become football champ

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By Newsgram Staff Writer

The second largest earthquake in terms of magnitude to rock the planet was the Sumatra-Andaman Earthquake that caused the 2004 Christmas Tsunami, killing almost 2.5 lakh people inhabiting the coastal regions of Indian Ocean. In India around 12,000 people lost their lives and 6.5 lakh were displaced.

The country united to mend the damage but nobody really believed that the survivors could ever emerge from their trauma as happens in the case of disasters. At best they could be self sustaining, in a hand to mouth way, but never the representatives of their fellow men and women.

But out of the statistical figure of 6.5 lakh displaced tsunami survivors, petrifying even in its mathematical dullness, a group of 33 young women from Tamil Nadu has shown the nation that human strength, love and caring is mightier than the nature’s wrath.

According to S Mariappan, a retired headmaster and the girls’ father now, he saw them first at the government school in Cuddalore where he used to teach and decided to adopt them realizing their need for help.

Mariappan, a trained football coach and a former member of Indian Football team, decided to impart his skill to the girls and today, he says, his dream has come true. Nine of the girls have gone on to become members of the national teams for seniors, Under-18 and Under-16 and have made their college, St Joseph’s College in Cuddalore, three-time all India inter-university football champion.

A man like Mariappan is hard to find in today’s world. He spends his Rs.35,000 pension on the girls while the rest of their expenses are covered by the college and the locals. Mariappan’s unconditional love for his kids matters more than what the deadly 30 ft high waves of saline water ever did to them.

Mariappan gave his girls the possibility to dream again, he showed them how to live again, how to win again, after they had lost tragically at a tender age. If Indhumathi today dreams to make it to the Olympics and Asian Games, it is because she knows her father, S. Mariappan is with her as he has always been.

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