Kicking up a storm
While the game is gaining popularity, a lot more needs to be done
Photo: K. Gopinathan
You made contact Tarun Appanna (left) and Gerald Antony Prabhu bat for the game
Rugby is not a sport for the faint-hearted, as it involves 30 well-built men fighting for an oval-shaped ball. Though the game was born and evolved in Europe, it was introduced in India in 1871 and found followers in Calcutta, Chennai and Mumbai.
The sport attained popularity in Bangalore due to the efforts of Keplar Joseph, Amos Ouma, Raymond Shaw and Chandran Sudarsanam in 1997. The first official game was held at the Holy Ghost Church grounds. The Karnataka Rugby Football Union was founded in 2002, by Gerald Prabhu and Charu Sharma, to popularise the game in the State.
Bangalore boasts of four clubs playing active rugby — Bangalore Rugby Football Club, The Assetz Refugees (an expatriate team), Bangalore Tigers and Corps of Military Police (CMP).
The Bangalore Rugby Football Club falls under the jurisdiction of Karnataka Rugby Football Union (KRFU), which was formed to promote the game in Karnataka. The KRFU introduced rugby in the sports curriculum of eight schools in Bangalore — Inventure Academy, Canadian School, The International School, New Baldwin International, Green Wood High, Ebenezer International School, Delhi Public School and Stonehill School.
The Bangalore rugby team has two international trainers, Landale Cranfield and Adam Whittington from Scotland and England respectively. Their main goal is to promote rugby among children and youth. “People feel that rugby is a violent game. In fact, it involves a high level of technique and discipline and is not as violent as made out to be,” says Gerald Prabhu, vice-president of the South India Rugby Football Association (SIRFA).
“In an attempt to enhance public interest, our trainer’s coach school children to play tag rugby which is a non-contact sport. It will give them confidence to play the actual game later,” he adds.
The Bangalore rugby team has performed exceptionally well and was placed number one nationally in 2005. They were finalists at the Hutch All India Rugby tournament, 2005; plate winners at the All India championship, 2006; semi-finalists in the All India Sevens, 2006; Plate winners of the All India South Asian Rugby Tournament, 2007; and finished runners-up at the SIRFA 10s in 2007.
KRFU has also produced players who have made it to the national squad such as Puneeth Krishnamurthy, Thimmiah, Tarun Apanna and actor Vinay Rai and Under-19 players Salik Zaffer, Deepam Kohli and Nishanth Nereyth.
Talking about rugby’s popularity in the city, Prabhu says, “The acceptance and awareness of the game is increasing. It is becoming quite popular in schools and we are conducting more inter-school tournaments.” He feels that playing rugby helps develop controlled aggression and in team building. However, things have not been very rosy as the Bangalore team has slipped to sixth position in the country.
Prabhu says, “We are woefully short of adequate infrastructure facilities. The association lacks office space and permanent grounds for the players to practice.”
The players are currently trained at the RSI grounds and SPT grounds on weekends by development officers Tarun and Puneeth.
In an attempt to popularise the game further, the association plans to introduce rugby in twelve schools and four colleges. They also plan to organise a rugby day soon that will aim at bringing potential talent into public view.
With the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, less than a year away, KRFU hopes that the players are able to perform well and do the nation and the State proud.
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