KOCHI:At the age of 76, former Kerala state basketball player V T Xavier is proving that age is just a number. One of the seniormost basketball players in Kerala today, Xavier can still be seen running rings around opposition players in the mornings at the Regional Sports Centre courts here.
Though he might be the oldest one in the court, players who come up against him says Xavier is still sturdy and strong. “Very rarely have I ever missed playing basketball. The days I don’t play I feel weak and slow," said Xavier, who represented the state at the national championship for 17 years.
"Playing every day has kept me away from the doctors and after all these years, I don’t remember being sick or bedridden even once,” he said. Xavier’s contribution to the promotion of the sport in the state speaks volumes about his dedication and love for basketball.
During his days at the Customs and Central Excise, Kochi, he played a major role in making their basketball team one of the best in the country -- providing the players with excellent coaching, infrastructure and a means of income.
Apart from wearing Kerala's shirt 17 times at national level, he also had a stint with the Bihar State Basketball Team for a one-off season. “My strength has always been the best part of my game. I would describe myself as a strong and agile player during my younger days. That is the character I exhibited on the court”, Xavier said.
Xavier started playing the sport as a guard using his height and strength to the maximum and later on developed as a more attacking player who could score a lot of points for the teams he played for and becoming a nuisance for the opposition.
“We never got great coaching or facilities. We played in mud courts and perhaps attended a camp for a few weeks, even before major tournaments,” reminisced Xavier of his playing days.
But he felt that the game has come a long way in Kerala. "Today, kids get excellent coaching. I am happy that this sport has begun to provide players with jobs and security,” he added.
One of Xavier's fondest memories is from 1975 when he, appearing as a guest player for the Customs, guided them to a very late win scoring two points in the dying moments. Another tournament he holds close to his heart is the 1960 nationals where Kerala finish sixth.
Years of experience behind him, Xavier tells the youth to overcome the fear of failing. “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. If possible, play every day. Play hard. Love the game. Every failure will only teach you to win another match,” concluded Xavier.