The swarming numbers had started to cause concern, more so by the over-enthusiasm of the holiday crowd. But amid the manic activity in the stands and calls of “please hold on to your children, they are very dear to us”, the evening did sum up what it stood for — a celebration of youthful energy.
A knee injury prevented little Ashish from being a part of this year’s Hindustan Times Great Indian Football Action (GIFA), but being in attendance at Sunday’s opening ceremony was his way of getting as close as possible to a sport “he breathes”.
A pupil of the Sehwag International School, which incidentally has fielded three teams for the second edition, he looked on wistfully as a couple of team members trooped to the stage to pose with the former India opener.
“Had it not been for this”, said Ashish, pointing to the heavily bandaged right knee, “I would have been up there,” he rued. An arm came around the shoulder. “Never mind, there is always tomorrow,” consoled the father.
The surging crowds were a testimony that the HT initiative is moving in the right direction (Vipin Kumar/HT Photo)
The boy wasn’t listening; the attention had been taken up by Sehwag’s words of inspiration. “Two things determine one’s progress in sport — talent and fitness. The former can take you to a point, the latter will determine how far you’ll go.” It struck a chord somewhere. “That (fitness) is an aspect I need to work on,” mumbled Ashish.
Sehwag’s next on how his two triple centuries were a tribute to the nation whipped up patriotic frenzy; the crowd having already been moved by rock band Astitva’s rendition of patriotic numbers.
Amid chants of ‘Vande Mataram’, a Tricolour had made an appearance then, the enthusiastic youngster having a tough time weaving his way through the chaos in the stands. The act was repeated as Sehwag made his exit to thunderous applause.
Sunday wasn’t just about well-ironed uniforms and strict regimens. There were softer hues as well, which appealed to the likes of Raja.
Akshay Kumar added jazz to the event as confetti splashed colour on the dais (Vipin Kumar/HT Photo)
The resident of a settlement nearby, the youngster came to know about HT GIFA while watching one of the training sessions in Gurgaon. Boys of his age do kick the ball around on off-days, when earning a livelihood takes a backseat and they have time they can call their own, and watching boys from similar humble backgrounds mount the dais, was inspiration enough to embrace the sport. “If they can, so can we,” he exclaimed, clutching the faded logo of the frayed football shirt.
Acknowledging talent and encouraging the young ones to dream is another highlight of India’s biggest inter-locality meet. After all, raising issues close to the heart is what HT stands for.