At any time during a paintball game, there are at least five points of thrilling action," says paintballer Kiran Soans (33). He's vehemently trying to debunk the notion that the sport is only a teambuilding indulgence. "That's one of its advantages, but that doesn't mean it's all the sport has!" he says.
For other paintballers just as exasperated with this popular belief, Soans, the head of Bangalore-based National Paintball League, is organising an international open paintball tournament in India next February. The championship is touted as the first worldwide paintball competition to be held in India, and will see participants mainly from the paintball-playing Middleand South East Asian nations. " T h i s , " he believes, "shall get people to notice the sport and realise how adrenaline-soaked it actually is."
Soans discovered the sport online in 2002, and asked his brother from the US to send him a gun. Until 2003 he was a backyard paintballer, and in 2006 he played at the first corporate championship in Bangalore. Today, he's a member of NPL All Stars India and went to Taiwan and Kuala Lumpur last year for tournaments. In India, NPL organises a competition every year, in which teams from Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore participate. This year, before the World Cup Asia in October, Soans plans to expand to Mumbai, Pune and Delhi, and rope in players for the international open.
Soans uses the Internet and radio to spread word about the NPL tournaments. Last year, 12 teams each from Chennai and Hyderabad, and 14 from Bangalore had signed up. "We saw that it wasn't at all a recreational sport. These guys were really serious," says Kaviraj Thapa (29), ex-captain of the NPL All Stars Bangalore.
Ready to compete
The physical rigours involved, he says, are no less than those in any other outdoor sport. Each member is handed a 45-minute Do-It-Yourself workout video, done without equipment, and instructed to eat healthy and improve their stamina. "We've been warming up with football, doing stretches and running, and meeting to discuss strategies and equipment."
Teams are split into divisions according to level of experience, and promoted on the basis of performance. In league matches, teams play within their division and the type of gun also varies. These intricacies that not many people know about, are what make paintball a good spectator sport. "Start off in your neighbourhood arena, and then move on to something bigger when you've bought your own equipment," says Soans.
Brigadier Sushil Bhasin (retired), owner of Mumbai-based Empower Adventure Activities, runs an outdoor paintball arena in Kolad. He believes that one can pick up the sport easily. "The more innovative you are with the arena the better the sport gets. If people like it that way, they'll surely enter themselves in tournaments."