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India’s sports capital?

Delhi boasts of being the sports capital of the country. But is the Capital really sports friendly? We talk to three youngsters to find out

If one has to name the sporting hub in the country, it has to be Delhi. The Capital has got the biggest number of professional stadiums in the country and the headquarters of the two premier sporting bodies, SAI and IOA, are located here. Two of the biggest international sporting events in the history of the country — the 1952 Asian Games and 2010 Commonwealth Games — have been hosted right here.

But the question is – in spite of such facilities, is Delhi a sports friendly city? Patriot talks to three young sportsmen from the city to find out the answer.

Arya Kashyap (Football)

Arya, 13, who has been born and brought up right here in the city of Delhi, was always fascinated by the game of football. At a very young age, Arya joined a local football training academy in Dwarka, where he says he was trained very well. “Though the academy was not that big, got the best exposure, as we played tournaments like the GIFA (Great Indian Football Action) and also matches with BIFA (Brazil International Football Academy),” he says.

Soon, the talent that he was, he was urged to look for bigger opportunities elsewhere. Arya and his father then tried at various private football academies until he finally joined the academy of the ISL club Delhi Dynamos. Arya says that they have world class facilities that have helped him improve his game immensely. He has separate coaching staff for separate streams – like one for skills, one for strength and conditioning and so on. “We are even trained professionally by foreign nationals who also take good care of our diet.” Arya, who plays as a midfielder, has even risen in the ranks, and has helped his team qualify to the Delhi A League.

The 13-year-old has now been selected in the Delhi Under-15 state side, and currently participates in their camps that are held every Thursday at the Modern School grounds. Here, Arya says, his coaching has been quite different. “I do face problems and sometimes get confused because what the coaches tell here, and what they say at the Dynamos academy are completely different”

But Arya’s overall experience with the state team and the facilities provided by Football Delhi are hugely positive. He agrees, that while they may not provide them with high class facilities like they do in the Dynamos academy, the way the coaches treat him and his group is exceptional. “Our coaches are so friendly, and they encourage us to play our game, and has helped us build  unity within the team in just  few training sessions”.

Arya says that the best thing about the under 15 program set up by Football Delhi is that within the resources they have, they are trying to build a healthy atmosphere for young kids like him to play in. Arya says that even the grounds he has played in till now are absolutely spick and span —whether it is the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, the Ambedkar Stadium or the Modern School grounds. “All of them are very conducive to play football in,” he says.

Rohit Sharma (Golf)]

While Arya’s tryst with Delhi’s football scene has been mostly positive, the same cannot be said about Rohit Sharma’s experience of playing the sport that he wishes to excel in – golf.

In an earlier report, Patriot described how the Delhi Golf Club sidelined certain professional players including India’s number one ranked golfer Rashid Khan on grounds of discrimination – to the extent of taking away their playing rights.

This tussle has not only taken a toll on professionals but also on Rohit, 24, who is still an amateur with an aspiration to turn professional. Rohit says that he started practising on the Delhi Golf Club, as part of their programme to train underprivileged and talented children. Rohit’s father worked as a caddie in this very golf course.

Rohit was going strong, until one day about three years ago, while he was practising on the Delhi Golf Course, with an attendant, whom he refers to as a stooge of the authority, had somewhat of a minor altercation with him on the course. After the attendant went and complained to the authorities, the president banned him from practising inside the course.

He  then appealed against the complaint, “but no one was there to listen to me”. This was the juncture where he could have turned pro by succeeding in the national tournament. However, due to his ban he could not practise in the DGC, and he says, that his game slowly started deteriorating.  “I had to practice and used to do it on barren land in Faridabad, where there is absolutely no facility for playing golf,” he says.

The new committee under Col KS Bedi too has completely turned Sharma’s requests down, and rather when he goes with his plea, he meets with humiliation from the committee in addition to rejection. Right now, his chances of returning to the DGC seems even more slim after the whole Rashid Khan-DGC tussle has caught fire.

“This unnecessary struggle for my playing rights with the DGC has taken away three precious years of my playing career, as my chances of turning professional look growing g slimmer by the day,”  an angry Rohit says with despair in his heart.

Alfaaz Ali (Rugby)

Ever since his childhood days in a small town in Bihar, young Alfaaz always harboured dreams of becoming a sportsperson and represent his country at the national level. When he was around 10 year old, Alfaaz’s parents came with him to Delhi, because they wanted to support their child’s dreams and in Delhi he could hone his skills.

After trying his hand at various sports, Alfaaz got attracted to rugby and started concentrating solely on the sport at the age of 15. He joined India captain Deepak Dagar’s club Delhi Rebels, so that he could get the best training. The club had produced talent that played for India.

He says that in spite of playing in one of the top clubs in the country, the facilities that he got were very poor. “We never had any equipment of our own, because they were very expensive. Our coaches used to provide all our equipment,” he said. This, despite the fact that he is a gold medalist for the India Under-19 level in the nationals. Alfaaz also asserts that in spite of being a state-level player for Delhi, he never got any extra facility from the Delhi Rugby Association.

The worst part, according to Alfaaz, was despite being one of the top clubs in the country, they have never been allotted a separate field exclusively to play rugby. Every weekend they practice in a public park in Mehrauli. “Playing on public parks increases chances of injury,”  he asserts.

However, Alfaaz says that it is because of the support of his coaches, that he has come so far. He says, despite the limited resources, his coaches took care of him very much, and that is the result of the 19-year-old being one of the brightest prospects in the country now.

Alfaaz, this year, got a full sports scholarship at the Lovely Professional University, Punjab. This too, he says, was possible only because of the backing he got from his coaches. At LPU, he says that the facilities are much better than what he got in Delhi. “We have got our own equipment, and the best part is for the first time in my life I am practicing on a professional rugby field,” he says, with joy in his voice.