Sports Other News 03 Nov 2016 Paralympics medals f ...

Paralympics medals forgotten? Wheelchair basketball team starves for funds

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | SOUMO GHOSH
Published Nov 3, 2016, 4:35 pm IST
Updated Nov 4, 2016, 1:43 pm IST
Team needs money to participate in Bangkok qualifiers next year; they may even go to World Champs from there.
Despite getting a huge boost from the corporate funding, the WBFI still requires a large amount of money to send its team to Bangkok. (Photo: WBFI/ Facebook)
 Despite getting a huge boost from the corporate funding, the WBFI still requires a large amount of money to send its team to Bangkok. (Photo: WBFI/ Facebook)

Chennai: India’s Paralympians recently beat the country’s 119-strong Olympic contingent in medals 4-2 bringing good cheer among fans and the political class which showered them with gifts.

But have we learnt any lessons there? No.

 

It has recently come to light that the country is still struggling to send its wheelchair basketball team to the men’s U-23 Asian qualifiers, in Bangkok, Thailand, next year for want of funds.

The Chennai-based Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI) has been campaigning for donations to send their team for the prestigious tournament.

Residential property developers South Indian Shelters Pvt. Ltd has come to their aid, contributing around Rs 3 lakh to the federation.

However, that amount is not even nearly enough to send the team to Bangkok, according to WBFI president and former para-swimmer Madhavi Latha.

 

With great urgency in her voice, she told Deccan Chronicle over phone, “We need more support. South Indian Shelters Pvt Ltd has been very helpful in giving the Rs 3 lakh to register for the tournament.”

This would be the first time that a wheelchair basketball team from India would be participating in an international tournament, if WBFI can manage to send its athletes.

The financial help from South India shelters came just at the right moment for WBFI, as the deadline for the registration was on Monday, October 31.

“We have registered for the tournament for now, but we require a lot more help, if we are to send our team to Bangkok next year,” said Madhavi.

 

“Firstly, we will need to conduct a training camp for our players in January. Then we also need to take care of flight tickets for players and coaches,” explained Madhavi.

Finishing in the top-three places in this tournament would ensure qualification for the World Championships in June 2017, in Canada. However, it is more about participation, rather than qualification for the Indians, at this moment.

According to the WBFI president, the federation needs around Rs 10 lakh for a training camp and send its players to Bangkok.

 

“We are also trying to invite a foreign coach, Toufic Allouche (from Lebanon). He has already worked with our players, and will come back in January for the training camp,” said Madhavi. “Our players are still in touch with him, and he keeps giving them tips on how to do different things.”

Despite the possible funding however, the players may have to travel to the Asian qualifiers without the proper playing equipment. Every player requires a personalised sports wheelchair, depending on what position they play, and their particular disability.

 

According to Madhavi, each customised sports wheelchair may cost somewhere between Rs 3-5 lakhs, which takes the total cost for getting a wheelchair for the entire squad up to at least Rs 36 lakhs.      

WBFI confirmed they have sent a proposal to the Paralympics Council of India (PCI), to fund the team’s trip to Bangkok. The overall costs for the personalised wheelchairs have also been mentioned in the proposal. However, any financial help is yet to come from the Sports Authority of India (SAI), through the PCI, says Madhavi.

 

“We are trying with the PCI to get support from the Sports Authority of India (SAI). The SAI does not directly deal with para-sports federations. They will support only through PCI,” said Madhavi.

The WBFI chief also went on to describe how historic an event it would be if the wheelchair basketball team were to get government support.

“In Paralympics, there is no representation in team games from India. It is only in individual games, like athletics or swimming,” she said.

“We have already taken so many initiatives with the wheelchair basketball team. Now there are chances that we may be able to send our team for the Tokyo Paralympics. So I think it is high time to start supporting (para) team games in India.”

 

When government support is yet to arrive, the WBFI got support from the corporates.

Real estate developers South India Shelter Pvt Ltd came to their aid.

“When we heard the wheelchair basketball federation needed help, I called up the president and provided support, as per our means,” said the firm’s managing director Mohammad Ali, speaking exclusively to this paper.

The federation continues to look for financial help. However, WBFI need to collect Rs 10 lakh in the next two months.

SAI was unavailable for a comment despite calls.

 

You can chip in with your contributions for the Indian wheelchair basketball players here: https://www.fueladream.com/home/campaign/400

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