Between the congested lanes of south Delhi’ urban village Maidan Garhi lives the present as well as the future of Indian rugby.
And it won’t be too much to call Maidan Garhi the new rugby capital of India as it is home to several national level rugby players including the captain of current Indian rugby team, Gautam Dagar, and Deepak Dagar who has represented India in 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and the 2010 Asian Games held in Guangzhou, China.
Following their footsteps, more than 30 children from the village are playing the game at local clubs while some like Nitin Dagar are playing games at international clubs. Nitin mastered the game while playing with his friends of Maidan Garhi and is now part of a professional rugby club in Scotland.
There are several pockets in New Delhi that are known for producing players of repute in a particular game. Nizampur village on the capital’s outskirts has been churning out quality kabaddi players, Munirka is known for producing worldclass swimmers and Lado Sarai has several boxers.
But what sets this village apart from others is that the youngsters of this village have made their presence felt at international level without any infrastructural support for the game in the village.
Maidan Garhi’s date with rugby started in the year 2004. It was summer holidays and Gautam Dagar, with lot of spare time in hand, visited Thyagaraj Stadium. There he saw some foreigners playing the game. Intrigued, he ended up spending the entire evening watching the match.
“I was in Class 10 then and knew that there is a game called rugby that had similarities with football. I had seen it on television too but didn’t know much about it. But watching those players got me excited and interested to know more,” said Gautam.
He was back to Thyagaraj Stadium the next day but not alone. Along with his friends from Maidan Garhi, Gautam approached the same group as asked if they could join them.
The boys of Maidan Garhi soon picked up the game and with it was born a ‘culture of rugby’ in the village. The children later received coaching under Kuldeep Bisht and also formed a club.
Later, some of them went on to play at national level while Gautam and Deepak made it to the Indian team.
“This village comprises mostly jat population and we are genetically well-built and this game needs both stamina and strength. As a reason the youth picked up the game very well,” said Amit Dagar, another national-level player from the village.
More teenagers of the village have started showing interest in the game and are being groomed by the senior players.
“Rugby as a game is not very popular in India. But this village has the potential to take India to the world map. In the team that played in Commonwealth Games in Delhi, two were from this village,” said Sunil Kumar, a Maidan Garhi resident.
If groomed well and provided with basic infrastructure, they can do wonders, claim the senior members of the village and the players.
‘Imagine, how we will perform if we have a playground’
A playground in Maidan Garhi village is enveloped in dust, so much so, that a group of children playing cricket at the centre are just a blurred vision.
“Such is the enthusiasm for sports at this village. But we do not have a single playground where we can play rugby,” said Amit Dagar, a national level player and resident of the village.
Rugby is a combat game for which one does not just need a ground but a wellmaintained one with no stones and the only big ground in the village is covered with pebbles. “Children play cricket here but not rugby as the chances of injury is high in this game,” said Amit.
The parks in the village are also not maintained properly; as a result children are forced to either practise the game at nearby Vasant Kunj Sports Complex or in their schools, depending on the available facilities.
The youths of Maidan Garhi, however, are relentless and want the younger generation to carry the legacy forward. Senior rugby players, and village residents, have taken upon themselves to coach the children. Sandeep Dagar coaches children of the government school in the small playground of the village. Amit Dagar, a nationallevel rugby player, coaches children at a government school in Chattarpur while Deepak Dagar gives training at Vasant Kunj Sports Complex.
At present, there are more than 40 rugby players in the village including international, national and club level players. “We want to promote the game but we need infrastructure accordingly. Imagine how we will perform if had a playground,” said Sunil Kumar, a resident.
The DDA is working to develop a sports field in the area and the residents are hopeful. “They have levelled the land but it has a lot of pebbles. We are helping them in whatever way we can,” he added.