KOZHIKODE:Thirteen states, twenty eight teams, zero beach volleyball players! Those stats may sound skewed to the reader, but the reality is beach volley remains more a pass-time than a sport in a country blessed with vast uninterrupted coastlines.
Take the case of Haryana’s Sanjay Kumar Phogat. One of India’s best attackers ever and a 2011 Arjuna award winner, Phogat propelled his team to the quarters of the men’s beach volley event at the Kozhikode beach. Now he will linger around for the next few days until he can link up with his teammates in the volleyball event. So will the Uttarakhand duo of T Shashidhar and Rahul Anavokar.
“Most of the players in beach volleyball are indoor volley players. Personally, I do it because it is more exciting and better to play. It is easier for volley players to play as well as you will develop most of the required skills if you play indoor volleyball,” says Phogat. However he concedes that taking to the sands is an entirely different prospect to playing indoors.
“The big difference is that beach volley requires more endurance. In indoor volleyball, we have five other teammates, whereas in beach volley you have one player alongside you. The ball is different and you have to control it more,” he says. Phogat says that India will be better off with a set of players focusing exclusively on beach volleyball, but believes few will take up the sport as a full-time vocation unless there are more incentives.
“People take up volley because they know they can get job if they become good enough. You have institutions like Indian Railway, BPCL and KSEB hiring volley stars. Will any of them hire a beach volley player? Will a beach volley player get to play in a professional league?”
While optimists continue to wait for answers to those questions, India’s standing in beach volleyball continues to take a beating.
International Volleyball Federation (FIVB)’s latest rankings show the best Indian men’s teams placed at 282. Further ignominy was in store when the Indian Olympic Association was censured for entering beach volley teams and then withdrawing them at the last minute.
But VFI secretary Ramavtar Singh Jhakar insists things are getting better. “We have taken a number of steps to improve beach volley in the country. Two beach volley courts will be constructed in Kozhikode as a start. We will send a circular demanding that each state association maintain a beach volleyball court. And we have already taken steps to increase the standard of refereeing by training more referees.”