At Sathyabama University, over 20 young men from across the country are on wheelchairs, playing basketball. Part of a training camp organised by the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India, the men aim to be members of a team that can go to Bangkok in January to participate in the qualifying tournament for the Men’s Under 23 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship that will be held in Canada next year.
But to get to Bangkok and participate there, they need about Rs. 15 lakh, and are looking for sponsors, said Madhavi Latha P., president, Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India. “We have started a campaign on a crowd-funding platform online, but so far, we have only got Rs. 1.9 lakh,” she said. The funds are needed for participation fees, flight tickets and players kits — and the deadline for the fees is October 31, she added. “We actually need high performance sports wheelchairs too, but these cost around Rs. 3 lakh each. Even if we can’t get them, we want to send our team there with the available basic models,” she said.
An international wheelchair basketball player and trainer Toufic Allouch is training the players and Antony Pereira of the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre, Pune is the Indian under-23 team coach. “It’s been some days now, and the players are learning very well. We train every day from 9 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and then again from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. How to balance the basketball and how to turn the wheelchair were taught. We are now focusing on teaching them to shoot and score,” Mr. Pereira said. He said the university’s able-bodied players too, had been dropping in and helping, and they were being taught to sit and play on wheelchairs so that they could in turn teach others.
For Mohammad Fahim, a 16-year-old player from Delhi, wheelchair basketball is a whole lot of fun. “The coaches are very good. They demonstrate and show us what to do,” he says.
12 players will be selected at the end of the camp and they, along with four others including the coaches, will be sent to Thailand — if the funds come through.
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