When the Indian hockey team bowed out of the Olympics last Sunday, Mohammad Ali Farooqi, the principal of Rizvi College in Bandra, was more proud than disappointed. A day later, on Independence Day, the University of Mumbai (MU) recognised the college as ‘Best in Sports’ for the seventh year in a row. Speaking on-stage after accepting the award, Farooqi said Devinder Walmiki, one of the members of Rio’s Indian hockey squad, and his cousin Yuraj Walmiki, another member, had studied at Rizvi.
As the country remains largely apathetic towards sports other than cricket, some colleges in the city are pulling out all the stops to support athletic students. From appointing full-time coaches to making the best training facilities available, to providing remedial teaching, colleges are fuelling the Olympic dreams of students.
Ramnarain Ruia college in Dadar, the alma mater of Ayonika Paul — the Indian shooter who competed in the 10m air rifle event in Rio — has a world-class shooting range. “Earlier, we were known only for our cricket team, but we realised that other sports are just as important. So we introduced badminton, taekwondo and kabaddi,” said Suhas Pednekar, principal of the college.
While Rizvi College — the city’s sports powerhouse — doesn’t have sporting facilities other than a gymkhana on campus, it has dedicated a large portion of its budget towards sports. This allows the college to rent the best grounds and hire the best coaches in the city.
However, it takes more than money to produce world-class athletes. “Our sports budget is less than that of each college in MU’s top 10 colleges known for sports. But we take care of the students’ basic needs and let them know that the college stands by them in their pursuits,” said Farooqi. He added that the college even installed electricity at the Walmiki brothers’ house when they moved to the city.
While Farooqi insists that colleges can balance academics and athletics, many colleges find this difficult. Thankam Ghule, principal of MD College in Parel, known for Indian sports, said, “[The athletes] spend their time on the ground and don’t come to class. While we do have a limited budget for sports, there isn’t much we can do in the current education system.” The college conducts additional sessions for athletes before examinations.
Colleges insist that if the country is to succeed in sports other than cricket on the international stage, sports must be made part of the curriculum. “The time has come for sports to be treated as a subject in colleges. Parents’ outlook must also change. They should realise that it is not only engineers or doctors who earn well,” said Tapas Chakraborty, principal, Thakur College, Kandivali.
“When I participated in a state-level competition for Khalsa College, we were given a professional sports kit. When Thadomal Shahani Institute of Management — my current college — discovered that I am a professional football player, they assured me of all the help I needed,” said Faizan Thange, student and football player
“The Institute of Chemical Technology has several sporting facilities for the students. They are available for free and always open. We indulge in recreational activities there after a hectic day at the laboratory,” said Henil Lad, student and badminton player