Where was Carrom invented

Maria Irudayam is proud of his "Cologne Carrom Friends". And after all, the man is a two-time world champion of this sport, which is practiced on a small wooden board. The ball isn't round, and the game doesn't last 90 minutes or more, but at most ten - but it seems to us Germans, and especially us Cologne, to be better than football at the moment. When the European Championship finals in the Carrom were over last Sunday in Berlin, Germany was celebrated as a two-time champion. The top performers in the team competition: Players of the Cologne Carrom Association (KCV). The European champion in singles: Frank Kunisch from KCV. If that is no consolation - after the football World Cup bankruptcy in France and the FC relegation. The triumph was made possible not least by the development aid of the Carrom cracks from India and above all the master: Maria Irudayam, who received the Arjuna Award in 1997, the highest honor for Indian athletes.

Immediately after the European championship, to which he was invited as a guest of honor, the 42-year-old employee at Indian Airlines - who also had quite a lot of income thanks to his Carrom successes - came again for a short visit to Cologne. With some of the Cologne Carrom players, like all of them in Germany still pure amateurs, he sat at the board for a whole night. "You can always learn from your technology," says Ingo Stankau from the KCV, who is also vice-president of the Cologne-based German Carrom Association. The rules of the game sound simple: on a 64 by 64 centimeter wooden board, two players each have to sink their own nine discs and one that they are both fighting over into one of the four holes on the edge of the field. The discs are moved in the right direction with a shot stone, which the player flicks at with his fingers. There is no more than 15 seconds left for each move. If the targeted piece does not land in the hole, it's your opponent's turn. It is reminiscent of billiards. And as Irudayam thinks he knows, Carrom was invented in India about 100 years ago as a substitute for billiards. "The English brought billiards to India. The people liked the game, but the equipment was too expensive for the people. So they came up with a poor man's version."

Nonetheless, the champ considers the game - which is the favorite pastime for tens of millions of people in Asia - to be a "great challenge for everyone". Because not only dexterity, but also imagination is required: "Every few seconds the position on the board changes. And you have to recognize the right push as quickly as possible and execute it." In order to get hold of Asians, especially Indians, the Europeans would have to improve.

It shouldn't be because of Irudayam. Because of all the practice games with the people of Cologne, he once again "didn't see anything of this beautiful city". And for a little game outside, "perhaps with a view of the cathedral", the conditions were simply not right. "It's too cold here for that, that's not good for finger work."

Peter Limbach / Image: Rakoczy
(From the K├Âlner Stadt-Anzeiger - No. 157 - Friday, July 10, 1998, section "Visiting Cologne")