There are problems in various spheres in the world of rugby – from start to end. Recently the Indian Rugby team was dropped from participating in the Asian Games. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports did not support us.
The first problem is the availability of grounds. We do not have the basic infrastructure in India. We do not have any particular ground for rugby. We need a grassy and soft ground, but all such grounds in India are taken for cricket and football. They would not allow rugby players to be trained there because they think the ground will be spoiled. So, we have to conduct training sessions at a DDA public park, where there are lots of trees. So, we get a very small area to train. We need a proper rugby field, like a football field, of about 70 by 100 metre. Whereas we only get 20 by 40 metre or 40 by 60 metre because we have to share the field with many other people who come for walk, cycling or doing yoga. In the end, it is a public park, so we have to share it with everyone.
But even on these circumstances Delhi recently emerged victorious in the National Championship in under 17 tournaments for boys. Also, in the Nationals held by the School Games Federation of India in Hyderabad in this year, under 17 girls won bronze and boys won gold. Then comes the equipment. Rugby players require soft pads, balls and many other equipment — basically a proper sports kit — which is difficult to find.
Then there is a lack of financial support. All the players in our club come from an underprivileged background. There are some players who after school work in a factory where they are paid `20 per hour. They collect the money to participate in the tournament. All these has to be done because we do not get any monetary support from anywhere. There are three or five tournaments very year, and all these are held quite far from the city. Thus, every time we need to travel. There are some players who cannot even afford a train ticket of `2,000. Sometimes I myself pay on their behalf. We do not have the monetary support.
We do not get any support from the government, neither in state nor in national level. No grant is given to us. They should provide us a ground for training. Any government body who wants to promote a sport, firstly they need to allocate a ground where the training can be conducted properly, where others who want to learn the sports can also join. A certified coach should be appointed who can provide proper training to these budding rugby players. Football, kabaddi, cricket – all such sports have a proper training field in every state, be it Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata. But there is not a single ground for rugby.
To host a rugby tournament, we need a proper infrastructure, accommodation facilities, ground etc. I am not able to generate money for these. In Delhi, cost of a ground is `2,000 per hour, which is not affordable for us. We provide coaching to some players for free, because they cannot afford it otherwise. All this is done because we are passionate about rugby and we want to share our knowledge about the sports. We want to make their life better through rugby. That is why I volunteer and coach in schools. We introduce rugby to them and share our own experiences. But even in those 12 schools where I train (as part of a sports programme by Delhi Rebels Rugby Club), there are no proper soft grass ground for rugby.
Rugby is a unique sport. It helps building character. I myself have experienced a lot of positivity once I started playing rugby. I have seen people whose life has been changed by rugby. Some people came out of their addiction to drugs and are now living a better life. One gets to learn the value of solidarity, sportsmanship, passion, discipline – all these things that can bring about changes in one’s life.
Gautam Dagar is the Captain of Indian National Rugby team. He is also the Secretary of Delhi Rugby Association, the Development Manager (North India) at Rugby India and the heads the Delhi Rebels Rugby Club.
— As told to Shruti Das