That we are a cricket-driven country is an understatement. With our national game of hockey itself being put on the back-burner, other sports rarely get to see the same enthusiasm that cricket elicits. But Hyderabadis seem to have found a new sport that has been steadily growing in popularity over the past few years.
While many of us will remember the game of Frisbee as a picnic activity, youngsters in the city have taken the flying disc to a whole new level, even travelling across the country for national tournaments.
Hyderabad’s Ultimate Frisbee Association (HUFA) was formed in 2010 by Girish Pramani and Srinath Reddy with just a handful of enthusiasts. While Girish was a Hyderabadi residing in Spain and brought along with him his love for the game whenever he visited, for Srinath, a local, the game was completely new and fascinating. An employee at Verizon Data Services, it was the thrill of the game and the high levels of fitness it required that caught his fancy.
“The game involves a lot of sprinting and jumping which really helps in keeping us active. It was a fun way to stay fit and that’s what I really like about it,” explains Srinath. Since the inception of the association, the city has seen three individual teams sprout up – Dishqiya, comprising of 30 regular players and 100 guest players, Disc-O-Tech, a team comprising of Microsoft Hyderabad’s employees and Hy-Flyers, a relatively new team comprising of 20 locals.
While Dishqiya was an active group that was playing the sport even before HUFA was formed, Disc-O-Tech and Hy-Flyers came up more recently given the rise in numbers. Skipper for team Dishqiya tells us more.
“The name Dishqiya stems from ‘ishq with the disc’. The team formed in the year 2009. The main aspect of the game was the bonding in the game. We begin our journey and tournaments as a group of players, but at the end we become a family who have fun. We are looking forward to sharing this joy of playing Ultimate Frisbee with Hyderabad,” explains Karthik S.
The team practices at the Tirumalgiri Football Grounds, Secunderabad, every weekend from 6:30 to 9:30 am.
For the Hy-Flyers, the idea was to give Hyderabadis a playing field as many were introduced to the game by their expat friends, much like Srinath. While expats would play for the short duration of their stay in the city, Hyderabadis who were hooked to the game were often left with not enough players. They have now also taken the game to government schools as well and train children interested in the sport.
Informs Arun Mukesh, who is a Hy-Flyers team member and also an event coordinator for HUFA, “My associate Sridhar and I started to train local kids who belong to government schools, colleges and also from the private sector as well. We take these students to the tournaments held all over India where 16 to 20 teams participate every year.”
“Ultimate Frisbee is a great game. Children learn the game with great attention. When we take these kids to tournaments, they have an opportunity to observe experienced players from different parts of the country, and so they can improve their own playing skills. We also keep a detailed account of all our activities on our Facebook page as it keeps people who are interested, updated about our event,” adds Sridhar. Hy-Flyers practice along with team Dishqiya on a regular basis. But as both the teams practice on the same field they keep their strategies and planning to themselves.
Disc-O-Tech, though, manage to keep their playing to themselves as they mostly practice at the field at the Microsoft office. Says hand skipper Omprakash of his Ultimate Frisbee experience, “Our manager one day brought his own Frisbee and started tossing the disc during our daily breaks. At first we weren’t interested, but as the days passed by we were taken in. We were later taught to play the game properly by Sridhar and his associate Avi Yadav who play for the Hy-Flyers team. Once we got a hang of it, there was no turning back. We first played Ultimate Frisbee as a sport at the national ‘Hat’ tournament.”
Open to both women and men, the city has yet to see as many women take to the game. Given that it is a no-contact sport, the game makes it quite convenient for women to participate. Agreeing, Srinath, the skipper for Hy-Flyers, says, “Frisbee is a great opportunity for girls especially, as this is a co-ed sport where they may showcase their stamina and speed on the field.”
While we may have just discovered the game, Frisbee is said to have been around since 1968. Started by a group of students at the Columbia High school in Maplewood, New Jersey, the game gained immense popularity in the West and soon spread from there. Called ‘Ultimate Frisbee’, the no-contact sport is played with a flying disc that combines athletic skills of running, catching and throwing. Ultimate Frisbee is played as a co-ed sport at both national and international tournaments. The ratio of male to female is usually 5:2 or 4:3, depending on the strength of the team.
Ultimate Frisbee is best known for the ‘Spirit of the game’ as there are no referees to scrutinise the game; it stresses on sportsmanship and fair play on every player. Players on the field make their own call when a violation occurs. The spirit of the game is awarded to the team that plays fairly throughout the tournament.
In India, the Ultimate Players Association of India (UPAI) was set up officially in April 2012, though communities of Frisbee players existed in cities like Chennai and Mumbai. Right now, the UPAI represents a 500-strong community of Ultimate Frisbee players with chapters in major cities like Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata and New Delhi, besides smaller cities like Surat, Alappuzha, Auroville, Coimbatore, and even the Churu and Jhunjhunu Districts in Rajasthan.
Collectively, the UPAI organises five grass tournaments and one beach and one beginner tournament a year. The first Ultimate Frisbee tournament in India was held in 2007 in Ahmedabad and was organised by Ahmedabad’s Indicorps who coached underprivileged youth to play Ultimate Frisbee. Since then many tournaments have been conducted across the country.
For those interested in checking out the game, teams welcome curious players to their practice sessions that take place over the weekend at Tirumalgiri. Also, you can check out the Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Hyderabad-Ultimate-Frisbee-Association.