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Saturday, Dec 14, 2019

Malkhamb is performed culturally, but has always been a serious sport, says Phatak

Vikas Phatak, vice-president, Pune District Malkhamb Association (PDMA), also a former national player, explains why the sport is only going to climb all the way to the top

pune Updated: Nov 10, 2019 16:45 IST
Jigar Hindocha
Jigar Hindocha
Hindustan Times, Pune
Vikas Phatak, vice-president, Pune District Malkhamb Association (PDMA).
Vikas Phatak, vice-president, Pune District Malkhamb Association (PDMA).(Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)
         

When the inaugural edition of the World Malkhamb Championship was held in February 2019 in Mumbai, it gave all malkhambians a new lease of hope that the sport is growing and has a future. Vikas Phatak, vice-president, Pune District Malkhamb Association (PDMA), also a former national player, explains why the sport is only going to climb all the way to the top... with some help, of course.

In India there are 29 states which currently run Malkhamb associations. How is the sport going to grow further across the country?

In the last few years there has been tremendous growth. If we talk about Pune distict there are 25-plus active malkhamb clubs in the city where 2,000 athletes practice every day.

The World Malkhamb Championship, where 15 countries took part, is also an example that sports is going global. In 1980-81 there were only 200-300 competing when a state championship used to happen, but today, we have 1,000 athletes currently participating in the ongoing 39th State Mallakhamb Championship at Maharashtriya Mandal, Tilak road.

The sport is evolving. Many people are taking an interest as it is a sport which helps you to maintain your fitness.

Which are the centres where Malkhamb is popular?

Pune, Mumbai city, Nashik, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Ahmednagar produce good malkhamb players. At least six tournaments are conducted in the city (Pune) annually, including the Pune Mayor’s trophy, the Association District Championship, interschool championship and then, invitational tournaments.

What do you believe is needed to boost Malkhamb’s growth ?

Support from the government will help as funding is always an issue. Still, we have good support from sponsors who help us organise tournaments. Support from the corporate sector under the CSR schemes will also help to promote this sport.

The progress of which country has impressed you the most?

Germany has adopted the sport with both hands, in a manner of speaking. There are many players pursuing the sport. In future, it will be a country to watch for. Even the United States is showing strong interest. Sashidhar Maskar, a former Maharashtriya Mandal and Shiv Chhatrapati Awardee, migrated to Germany and started teaching malkhamb. In the US, Chinmay Pathankar and Rajesh Narkhede -- both Shiv Chhatrapati Awardees - are coaching in New Jersey.

Has Malkhamb made the transition from being looked on as entertainment, to now being a proper, serious sport?

It is a serious sport. Always has been. Malkhamb is performed at many cultural events, but it has great sporting value. Self confidence is most important thing for an athlete, along with control over your body and mind, in tandem.