Back To Social Development

Mahesh Tirkey – Indian Footy sensation from Ranchi

Posted on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 by ARFAI,

Mahesh in action against Finland

19-year-old Mahesh Tirkey has scripted many firsts. Currently in his third year at a local college, Mahesh is one of the first-generation learners from his community, the Hatma slum of Ranchi, Jharkhand. He is also the first and only one till date from the state of Jharkhand to have been selected to play for India in the Australian Rules Football tournament.


“My father was a pitman in the railways with an income of around Rs 10,000 a month. Back then, we lived at the railway staff quarters at Jainagar skirting the Nepal border. It was tough for us, living on so little for the family of 5. He passed away suddenly in 2005, so the entire family moved to the Hatma slums” recalls Mahesh.


“The months following his death were very difficult for us. We had lost our father and with him the only earning member of the family. None of us had a job. For a few months, all of us, brothers [Mahesh has two elder brothers] did odd jobs to run the family. I dropped out of school to work in a factory in Hatma. Almost after two years, my elder brother joined the railways as a gateman” he recollects. After that, Mahesh rejoined school after a break of four years. “It’s not difficult if one has the will” he shares when asked about the challenges he faced on re-joining school after a gap of four years. It is this will that sustained his love for sports despite all adversities.


Mahesh’s next breakthrough came in April 2014, when Magic Bus, a sports NGO, joined hands with the Australian Rules Football Association of India (ARFAI) to collaborate around spreading popularity for the unique Australian Rules Football.This collaboration was about teaching this new kind of football to 1,000 underprivileged children in each of the states of Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Rajasthan. For Mahesh, it was a new sport and he wasn’t sure he could play it at all. “What worked for the children was the fact that one could use the entire body to play the game. It was not only the feet. For me, it is a mixture of dodge ball, kabaddi, and football” he explains.


Mahesh was a part of a group of 20 Magic Bus volunteers who took the training in Australian Rules Football. His performance impressed the ARFAI coaches right from Day-2 and soon Mahesh was off to Kolkata to receive special training to be a part of the national team. “I could not believe that I have managed to secure a place for myself in the national squad. I was playing along people who had 10-20 years experience of playing the game. I was nervous but I knew that this was my opportunity”.


At the prestigious AFL International Cup 2014 in Melbourne, Australia, Mahesh played for the Indian Tigers against teams from Pakistan, Finland, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, within two months from the first time he heard about the sport. To add to his achievement, he ended up being one of the best five players from the Indian Tigers team.


Upon returning, Mahesh helped train the senior and junior state teams of Jharkhand to participate in the ARFAI National Championship 2015 and to everyone’s surprise, the juniors won the championship whereas the seniors finished runners up, both making their debut in the national competition. ‘I know how big this opportunity was for me; and I feel there’re more children with similar potential” he signs off.


Ranchi has come in limelight only in recent years when it produced its very first international player in M.S. Dhoni, India’s World Cup winning cricket captain, and now the city has its second international player in the list for hopefully more to come.


According to ARFAI’s Sudip Chakraborty, Mahesh is one of the few young Footy talents in India who hold the ability to play in junior division football leagues in Australia if provided with the right training and is waiting for the opportunity and support required from the Australian end.