As Sepak Takraw wins his first-ever bronze at the Asian Games, a look at sport in India

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India’s challenge in the Sepak Takraw men’s team competition at the ongoing Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang ended at the hands of defending champions Thailand.

The Men’s Team Regu, however, made history by reaching the semi-finals of the competition. In doing so, the team had won a bronze medal, the sport’s first in four attempts at the Asian Games.

In what is a sport believed to have originated in Malaysia, India has made rapid strides in the recent past, coinciding with a few international medals to come for the country. Oddly enough, the little-known sport exists in pockets of space across the country where its popularity rivals that of other sports.

When he started in 1982, there was hardly any enthusiasm for the sport. Even as recently as 2006, when India made its sports debut at the Asian Games, the team was forced to forfeit one of their matches due to missing a number. enough players.

The origins of the sport coincidentally have to do with the Asiad held in New Delhi in 1982, where Sepak Takraw was held as a demonstration sport. “The event took place at the Karnail Singh Stadium in New Delhi where it was a huge success. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was also present as a guest of honor on this occasion, ”said Yogendra Singh Dahiya, secretary of the Sepak Takraw Federation of India (STFI).

STFI was formed two years later, in 1984, at a school in Nagpur, with the aim of organizing more competitions. Three years later, the very first Sepak Takraw nationals were detained in Maharashtra.

“Manipur has traditionally been the top performing state in this discipline, but we are seeing that hegemony crumble as we see the sport’s national growth,” said Dahiya.

Indeed, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and parts of New Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have seen the sport flourish. In Delhi, the “Majnu ka Tilla” district near the north campus of DU sees a multitude of players coming to the Indira Gandhi stadium to practice and practice the sport.

Manipur’s hegemony is breaking

Manipur’s dominance on the national stage allowed them to send 14 players from the men’s and women’s teams to the Asian Games, but the SSB or the Border Armed Forces challenged the Northeast state’s grip on the sport.

To date, 27 national championships in the senior category and 22 national sub-juniors and juniors have been held in three decades. But Sepak Takraw’s breakthrough for India came when the Sports Authority of India adopted him in 2000.

The inclusion of the sport in the Manipur National Games in 1999, and all other national championships since, has also helped. The interuniversity games also included the discipline as five SAI centers – Delhi, Bareilly, Aizawl, Imphal and Dimapur – now train athletes in the sport.

“At that time the sport was available in some schools and if you were interested you could participate in it,” said coach Hemraj, head coach of the Indian team since 2009.

The nationals, which numbered just four to five participating states at the time, now see representation from 25 of STFI’s 29 affiliated units, said Hemraj, who started the sport at school in 1991, adding that the team had started to participate internationally from the Kings’ Cup 2004., a prestigious competition in Thailand.

A need for jobs

Bronze medals at the Coupe des Rois and the Coupe de France, two prominent international tournaments helped, as did increased support from the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYAS), which provided financial assistance to the camps in from 2010.

In Guangzhou, the men’s team lost in close quarter-finals, inches from a medal and in Incheon, they were fifth while the women were eighth. Meanwhile, the Sepak Takraw World Series were held in India, which saw them beat Malaysia for the first time in the semi-finals before losing, but won a bronze medal for their efforts.

India also hosted the World Cup once every four years in Telengana, which saw the contingent finish with a bronze medal in 2017 to add to the silver the team won at the Asian Sepak Championships. Takraw in 2017.

The team that won bronze at the Asian Games had two alumni, KH Niken and Sandeep Kumar, making their third Games appearances, but most of the team are young, Dahiya says.

“Due to the lack of job opportunities, I cannot ask my players to give up their careers in order to continue. One of my promising players is a day-to-day worker in Kohima and I even offered him money to come and train, but there is no going back ”, deplores Dahiya.

Only the governments of SSB, Manipur and Andhra Pradesh offer jobs to Sepak Takraw players who otherwise have the opportunity to become coaches in SAI like Hemraj. The jobs, Dahiya argues, will attract and retain the best talent in the sport.

Official recognition of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) also does not appear to be forthcoming, as STFI is not one of the 48 National Sports Federations (NSF) under the IOA. For now, the starting problems in the sport continue, but this bronze medal should bring some well-deserved joy to the game once known as the ‘volley in the foot’.

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