KOCHI: Take any sports event - whether it is the Indian Super League or the Pro Volleyball League - the common practice by the organisers is to generate maximum publicity and interest, attract sponsors and make it a success. Unfortunately, the shooting discipline follows a reverse trend, even at the grassroots level.
The Ernakulam District Shooting Championship was held at Regional Sports Centre at Kadavanthra on July 27 and 28 in such a discreet manner that one gets the impression that the organisers were trying to go covert as possible. While the shooters were busy sighting, loading and unloading their guns and firing away, the officials were trying to explain how Ernakulam falls behind in the sport, compared to other districts, not to mention the country.
Though the district has produced international-level shooters like Elizabeth Susan Koshy, facilities are lacking. There is a dearth of coaches and a general apathy plagues the sport.“This is only shooting range in the district. This is not sufficient because there are only four lanes and that is why the event took two days,” Shivashankar Raghu, secretary of Ernakulam District Rifle Association, said.
To put that into perspective, the Idukki shooting range has 20 lanes for 10m air pistol, 20 lanes for 25m firearms and 10 lanes for 50m rifle firearms.
“Because of the situation, we do not encourage anyone. If there is more participation, we will have to extend it to three to four days. We have only four lanes and each one takes about one-and-a-half hour,” Raghu added. As a consequence, the talent pool is drying up in Ernakulam.
“If you see, the best pistol shooters in Kerala are from Ernakulam like Naveen PR, John Ralph and many more,” Raghu said. Besides not having a proper shooting range, the lack of coaches also forces shooters to travel to other places to train. Akhil MS is one of the few coaches in the city and he has to train young shooters in three events which he has been doing for the last 13 years.
Despite being a national-level shooter himself, he has the added responsibility of being the coach and the range officer at the shooting range in Kadavanthara.
“Shooters approach me for tips in the beginning and that is how I ended up being a coach. The shooters get to train for just two hours a week which is very less. Since it is a limited range, we can train only a few shooters and so we are not even giving publicity,” he said.