Well before the sport became heard of in India, Manoj N had been undergoing training in Roll Ball, since 2003. Played on roller skates, Roll Ball is a sport played between teams of six, where a player must dribble the ball while carrying it. The game is also played in an ice skating rink.
Now 21, Manoj was part of the winning Indian team at the Second Roll Ball World Cup held in Nairobi last year. He was attracted to the game through his love for skating, which he had started practising in his childhood. K Sivarajan, who is also the General Secretary of Kerala Roll Ball Association, is Manoj’s coach.
“I got to see children doing roller-skating as part of a procession in my hometown, Thiruvananthapuram. So my father took me to coach Sivarajan, when I expressed interest in learning to skate. When Roll Ball was developed, I began training in the game,” explains Manoj. Before packing his bags to participate in the first-ever international game of his life, he attended a 20-day camp at Pune, where he got acquainted with his teammates from different parts of the country. Of the two possible participants sent from Kerala, only Manoj could qualify at the national level. He spent three days in Kenya during the competition until the Indian team emerged winners, beating Iran.
Manoj’s travel expenses, amounting to a lakh rupees, was sponsored by the Health Minister of Kerala. But the coach and the Kerala Roll Ball Association also had to support Manoj with funds. A diploma student of electronics and communication engineering, Manoj is currently waiting for his final results and aspires to scale new heights as a sportsperson in the future.
“Other than the various receptions organised for him after his return, no financial support of consequence has been offered to him. Manoj was also chosen the best shooter in the competition. Only if the game is approved by the Kerala State Sports Council, can he get more opportunities,” says Sivarajan, hoping things will start to look up for the relatively little known sport.