Sport is not all about champions and winning teams. But also of those who mould the raw talent into star performers. At a time when many team sports have hit a new low in the State, 42-year-old Puppala Venkat Ram has scripted a memorable moment for Railways by guiding it men’s team to maiden title (beat Services 34-33 in the final) in the just-concluded Senior national handball championship in Kolkata.
This is a remarkable for Railways formed the team only in 2006 and started competing in the Nationals. And, more so he is from Hyderabad where the sport is almost dormant.
This is a pity for not long ago the city produced some of the finest ever to don India colours including Chenna Reddy (Venkatram’s coach), Suresh, Mustafa, Aziz and Preetam Singh.
Just consider this. The only qualified handball coach in Hyderabad - Alex Francis - is now attached to Dr. Marri Channa Reddy Institute of HRD and that too after laying a fresh handball court at Gymkhana Grounds!
Venkat Ram, who played seven consecutive Senior nationals (1989-95) and even led Andhra Pradesh to bronze medal in the 1994 Pune National Games, ensured that this team stayed in match-fit frame of mind by organising practice matches with the Army outfits. For, not even the die-hard handball fan can recall when was last time a serious tournament featuring the seniors was organised in the city.
In fact, there was more to cheer for Venkat Ram as the winning Railways team also had players Shamsher Singh and Amit Lamba, who were adjudged “best player” and “best goalkeeper” in the Kolkata Nationals.
“Definitely, it is sad that handball which was so popular in the city is now badly looking for huge fillip” confesses Venkat Ram, who is grateful to the Railways for putting in place such a wonderful indoor stadium in RRC.
“Honestly, there are better job opportunities for all those who do well at the national level as Railways continues to be the biggest employer of all” reminds the SCR Reservation Supervisior-II.
What should be done to revive handball in a big way? “The beginning should be made at the school level for it is not such an expensive proposition for learners. Big schools like the AP Sports School (Hakimpet) which have the space should take the lead,” Venkat Ram feels.
Well, all that is assured now for this spirited coach is an out-of-turn increment and a cash incentive from Railway Board. But, for the time being, Venkat Ram is savouring his moment of triumph.