With new world-class sports facilities, Najafgarh capital’s major sports hub

There are over a hundred others playing football on the new synthetic turf, and practising long jump and running around a 400-metre new synthetic track.
The Delhi government has also made a big sporting infrastructure push in the area, investing about <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>150 crore in developing multi-sports complexes.
The Delhi government has also made a big sporting infrastructure push in the area, investing about 150 crore in developing multi-sports complexes.
Updated on Aug 23, 2021 12:37 AM IST
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ByManoj Sharma, New Delhi

The evening sun is shining bright on the face of Kunal Kharab as he begins the run-up to throw the javelin. He runs a short distance, holding the spear slightly above his head and sends it soaring into the air. It lands about 60 metres away. There are about 50 other youngsters practising the game in the newly built javelin arena of the Mundhela Kalan complex in Najafgarh. Besides, there are over a hundred others playing football on the new synthetic turf, and practising long jump and running around a 400-metre new synthetic track.

“Najafgarh is no longer just about wrestlers or cricketers, it is the city’s biggest sports hub with the best sporting facilities in the city, where children are playing every possible sport, ” says Vikas Lakra, an athletics coach at the complex.“Since Neeraj Chopra’s stunning Olympic gold victory, the number of people wanting to learn javelin throw has doubled here,” he adds.

Today, one can see hundreds of youngsters and children as young as six year old practising sports such as boxing, volleyball, badminton, football, hockey, shooting, wrestling at several private and government sports facilities, which have come up in the past few years in Najafgarh. In fact, today, the area boasts over 50 indoor and outdoor sports academies, which have been set up in the past few years.

The Delhi government has also made a big sporting infrastructure push in the area, investing about 150 crore in developing multi-sports complexes. Apart from Mundhela Kalan complex, which has a football ground with synthetic turf and athletic tracks, the government is also developing an 18-acre sports residential complex in Kair village at a cost of 140 crore.

A FIFA approved football field , and a cricket ground is ready at Kair, and work is in progress to develop tennis and basketball courts, swimming pool and residential quarters for players. Besides, the government has set up wrestling and kabaddi mats in Vyayamshalas ( gymnasiums) in many villages such as Dichaon Kalan, Mitraon, Dhansa, Issapur, Mundhela Khurd.

“ We are creating world- class sports facilities in Najagfarh, where sports has been a way of life. Earlier, because of the lack of good sporting facilities, children from the area used to travel to different parts of Delhi, now sportspersons from other parts of the city and even neighbouring states come to Najafgarh, ” says Kailash Gahlot, the local MLA and Delhi’s transport’s minister. “These new sports complexes, where sportspersons will get specialised training will go a long way in encouraging local talent and enable them to compete at the international level, ” adds Gahlot, himself a former football player.

Najafgarh and the surrounding villages have been a hub of traditional Indian sports such as kabaddi, wrestling and Kho- Kho. It has produced famous wrestlers, including Sushil Kumar, and kabaddi and Kho- Kho players.

Villages such as Rawta, Malakpur Zer, and Kair have been known for their kabaddi teams; Baprola, the village of Olympic medal winner Sushil Kumar, was famous for its wrestlers. Mitraon village had a Kho-Kho team that has won several zonal Kho Kho tournaments in Delhi.

Almost all the villages in Najafgarh have their akharas, where the young wrestlers honed their skills. From their village akharas, they often graduated to Bhagwat Swaroop Akhara, the most famous akhara in Najafgarh, and from there to Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi, where India’s three Olympic medallists Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt and Ravi Dahiya got trained.

“Youngsters here played traditional rural sports with a view to joining the armed forces. But now the new generation is adopting many other sports such boxing, badminton and those who can afford are getting into cricket,” says Anil Solanki , a sports coach who lives in Baprola village. “Cricket is an expensive game and it gained ground in Najafgarh only after Virender Sehwag played for India.”

Indeed, until Sehwag, who earned the nickname of the Nawab of Najafgarh, played for India, cricket was a fringe game in Najafgarh, with no training facilities. In 1990, a cricket coach named Sashi who ran Surmount Club started a summer cricket coaching academy in Najafgarh. Sehwag joined the academy and played for the club. He later trained under AN Sharma at his Vikaspuri cricket coaching centre.

His rise to fame in the early 2000s inspired many local youngsters to play cricket and Najafgarh has since produced many players such as Pradeep Sangwan, Kapil Yadav, Nitin Yadav, who has played IPL and represented Delhi in first-class cricket. Today, it has many cricket academies many of which came up in the past decade in what were not so long ago agricultural fields.

Nepal Singh, who says he played cricket with Sehwag in Najafgarh during his formative years, today runs a badminton academy that has four indoor courts with green maple wood and synthetic victor flooring. He is currently busy adding another court inside his academy. “More and more youngsters here are getting into individual sports in their quest for a deeper sense of personal achievement and glory. The demand for these sports academies in Najafgarh is rising fast because all parents here want their children to be in sports. Most academies are run by local sportspersons,” he says.

It is a late afternoon and about a dozen young boys and girls are practising in his indoor academy. One of them is Akshit, who spends six hours at the academy in the morning and evening. Ask him why he has chosen badminton and he says, “I hope to play at the international level one day. Besides, this game is affordable and I think it will help sharpen my body and mind. Unlike in the past, there are good badminton training facilities here in Najafgarh,” he says. Nepal Singh says many of his wards have played at the state level and in Delhi Badminton League (DBL).

Today, Najafgarh has several private badminton and tennis courts. But if one goes by the number of sports academies, boxing seems to be one of the most popular sports in the area. Over a dozen boxing academies have cropped up in the past five years where one can spot hundreds of children and teenagers — both girls and boys and some as young as five — practising their punches.

Boxing coaches say this fast-growing interest in the combat sport has been inspired by the growing number of Indian boxers making it big in international events, the increasing number of boxing tournaments and championships in India, and the glamour associated with boxing. “Young people in this predominately rural area are intelligent and well-built, and boxing is an aspirational sport for them,” says Brij Mohan, who started MB boxing Academy three years back.

“Nowhere in the city is the craze for boxing as intense as in Najafgarh. In fact, I have many students who have given up kabaddi and wrestling for boxing. Many of our students are children of former and current wrestlers, and kabaddi players,” says Mohan. About a dozen of his 50 students are girls, including Vishi Balyan, 16, who gave up kabaddi for boxing. “Women are as good at boxing as men. My sole objective is to win an Olympic medal. If Lovlina Borgohain can do it, so can I, ” says Balyan as she awaits her turn for a practice bout in the ring.

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