HYDERABAD: Not many know that there is a sport called sepak takraw. Displaying gravity-defying skills, players use feet, head, knees and chest to hit the ball across a net. Using hands is prohibited. They get a point if the ball hits the ground on the opponents’ side of the court.
India’s recent performances have encouraged International Sepaktakraw Federation (ISTAF) to extend a helping hand. After bronze at the 2017 World Cup in this city, the Indian men’s team made history at last year’s Asian Games by clinching the country’s first medal (bronze) in the competition. The team had spent two months in Thailand — a powerhouse in this sport — as part of preparations. But despite the world body willing to offer technical support for an academy, authorities in India are up against a roadblock. “The way India played at Asiad surprised everyone. If proper facilities are provided to athletes, I am quite sure that gold at the next edition will be a possibility,” said ISTAF secretary general Abdul Halim Bin Kader.
Kader, who hails from Singapore, said that ISTAF is ready to provide “world-class” technical support, if India opens an academy that trains players and referees under one roof. “India needs an academy where all people associated with the game are trained together. If a project like that comes up, ISTAF guarantees that the world’s best coaches and other training staff will be provided.”
But in a chat with this daily, Sepak Takraw Federation of India president SR Prem Raj rued the lack of space for such a facility. At this moment, there are quite a few national camps in states like Assam, Tripura and Goa. That there are none in Southern India prompted officials to plan for an academy in Hyderabad.
“The game is being regularly promoted in Telangana. The girls here are especially talented. If we have proper infrastructure here, a lot of events can be hosted without any trouble. As of now, there is no space for such a facility. It is in the state government’s hands to grant us some land. If we get it, building the academy won’t take much time.”
Goa to host World Cup
India hosted the ISTAF World Cup in November 2017. Kader announced on Friday that Goa will host this year’s World Cup (regu and quadrant) in October. Efforts are also being made to get the sport a nod from International Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Federation.