India’s poster boy

Tom Joseph was Kerala’s hero in the recent National Championship in Jaipur. The 33-year-old spiker has been a part of Kerala’s triumph thrice, winning his first National title as a 20-year-old. By Kamesh Srinivasan.

The Kerala team that defended its National volleyball title was young, but it had the seasoned Tom Joseph as its backbone.

“We had made a plan for the final, after having lost to Tamil Nadu in the league. Its execution was a success,” said Tom Joseph, who was quite pleased to have played his part well.

The 33-year-old spiker has been a part of Kerala’s triumph thrice, winning his first National title as a 20-year-old. A Sports Officer with Bharat Petroleum in Kochi, Joseph, starting with the junior India squad, has been in the National team for nearly 15 years. He was the captain of the Indian team during the Rashid International tournament in Dubai in 2000 when it won the gold.

Apart from his regular stint for the National squad in the Asian Games, Asian Championships, SAF Games and the qualifying events for the World Cup and Olympics, Joseph had also competed in the Qatar League for three years (2001-2003).

“We need to have a good club league with good money for the players,” he said.

Having been a part of the Indian Volleyball League (IVL) in 2011, Joseph said the game had considerable potential in the country. “We need television coverage for the game to grow. Children are watching cricket and football. Volleyball is popular only in some states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab etc. It has tremendous potential as people can enjoy the game played at any level,” he said.

Joseph insisted that there should be a better structure for volleyball at the school and college level for the development of the game in the country.

A contented man, Joseph is quite happy to be at home in Kerala than seek fortunes elsewhere. His wife Janet is pursuing a M.Ed. course. He has a daughter studying in Standard I and a son who is eight months old.

Joseph was presented the Jimmy George Award (the ‘best sportsperson’ of Kerala) in 2009. He has been anxiously waiting for the Arjuna Award for quite long. “I am confident that my turn will come soon,” he said.

Indian sport needs to reward heroes like Tom Joseph to help sport like volleyball flourish. He has a tremendous fan club and had to open a fresh account in Facebook as his main account was reaching the limit of 5000 friends.

In an electrifying atmosphere during the final of the National Championship, there were groups chanting his name and waving his poster. The fans mobbed him after the final and took photos with the charming poster boy of Indian volleyball.