A league of their own

Rachel Dammala speaks to sports investors, founders, club owners and chairpersons of various leagues and teams in the city. 

Published: 16th March 2022 07:02 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th March 2022 02:38 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: India is a land of diversities -- from languages, religions, traditions, cuisines to festivals. However, the country has, for decades, been obsessing over only one sport -- cricket. As much as the its fans would take pride in it, such a singular preference of a sport has led to the mere non-existence or even the downfall of some others. But things are slowly changing for the better, thanks to several passionate sports persons working their blood, sweat, tears and even money off, to help make the sporting dreams of several aspirants a reality. Rachel Dammala speaks to sports investors, founders, club owners and chairpersons of various leagues and teams in the city. 

Abhishek Reddy Kankanala, owner of Hyderabad Black Hawks (volleyball) 
“We are a country of 1.4 billion people. That is a lot of talented youngsters to funnel towards one single sport. With a very limited number of free spots for each generation, that is a lot of athletic talent we are inevitably wasting. We need to do better. ‘One size fits all’ is not a motto that finds much relevance in sport,” says Abhishek, whose team played at the recently held Prime Volleyball League (PVL) in Hyderabad. He goes on to say that the PVL did something extraordinary — it proved that volleyball can change to better match the lifestyles of its fans. “The league format is much quicker and more intense than the standard version — an hour-and-a-half per match, 15 points to win, with sudden death, super point, super serve. Even if you have only 10 minutes to spare, PVL will thrill you. This is volleyball re-imagined from the ground up for India, for every single one of us,” he says.

Varun Tripuraneni, co-owner, Hyderabad FC (football)
The owner of one of the most popular teams playing for the Indian Super League shares why and how he’s doing his bit to push football over more “profitable” sports in the country. “Football is a global sport that is also the most-watched. In India, we are just getting started. There is massive popularity for the big European clubs, but in the last few years, thanks to the Indian Super League, fans have now started supporting clubs from their respective regions. Football has huge potential in India,” he says. 

S Ramachandra Reddy, chairman of Telangana Baseball Association
Ramachandra believes that baseball is a growing family in the country, but there’s still a long way to go. “It is important for us to provide a platform for children to play the game. It will begin to add fun to a meaningful experience that will hook them on to the sport. It is a long-lasting tradition that will serve as an example to others too,” he says.

Rahul Bose & Nasser Hussain, Rugby India 
Rahul, the president of Rugby India (RI) and Nasser, the CEO, were in Hyderabad last week for the Sub Junior National Rugby Championships. Nasser says, “Over the past few years, India has seen a shift from cricket to other sports -- the leagues are definitely helping. A lot has happened over the last two years when everything shut down and rugby saw a pause. We’ve been here for donkey’s years and even avid sports fans didn’t know about it. The time to propel the sport is now.” Rahul adds, “Today, rugby is played in 302 of the 730 districts in India, that’s more than 40% of the country. The reason why we call it the least-known most-played sport in India is because we are not on TV. A TV property will happen soon.” 


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