In a first of its kind, a five-day national-level Wheelchair Basketball Technical Camp has been organised in Hyderabad where more than 75 players from across the country have come for training.
The highlight of this unique camp will be the first-ever international wheelchair basketball match in the country between India and Thailand on June 26.
Wheelchair basketball is one of the most exciting and engaging sports across the world. The competition is as thrilling as any normal game. In India, too, the sport is gaining attention with Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI) providing an active platform for players.
For the first time a camp has been organised where International experts and instructors will provide technical expertise to help raise the level of sport in India. Besides players, 80 coaches and referees from 20 states in India have reached Hyderabad to get training.
"There is huge potential but great need of education. People are willing to get trained but lack skills. We have picked India as the first place to train and hope that with experienced instructors good players will come up," Maureen Orchard, Secretary General of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, told CNN-News18.
Braj Mohan Tiwari, Mukesh and Shailendra have come from one of the backward districts, Lalitpur, of Uttar Pradesh. Since childhood they have been fond of sports, but due to lack of facilities and government apathy and social perception towards the differently-abled, they never had an opportunity to pursue any sport.
Coming to this camp, they feel empowered and hope to get recognition.
"We all have come from a small town. We always wanted to pursue this sport. Our friend told us [about the camp] after seeing wheelchair basketball in social media. After knowing, we immediately decided to join and get proper training," said Tiwari.
Nisha Gupta, a young girl from Mumbai never thought she would be able to pursue a sport after she met with an accident in 2004. She was bedridden for four years. A swimming champion, Nisha now wants to build her career as a professional wheelchair basketball player and feels she is a step closer to realising her dream.
"My dream is to represent India and make my friends and family proud. Hope more girls will get inspired and come out. I wish more families will support their children," Nisha said.
To promote the sport, the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India was formed in 2014 and in two years nine state-level teams, including two all-women teams, have been formed.
The aim of the camp is not just to promote the sport and develop a strong contingent of wheelchair basketball players but also to create a sustainable eco-system for the sport to survive by training coaches as well. However, lack of stadiums facilitating training for the differently-abled and awareness is still a big challenge.
"Present challenge is inaccessible stadiums. Nobody here manufactures sports wheelchairs, we have to import. We lack professional training. Also there is attitude barrier that needs to be broken. They [differently-abled] can also play any sport," Madhavi Latha of the WBFI told CNN-News18.
The event is a matter of pride as India is the first country selected by the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation to implement the project. The game has given these players their lost confidence. Need is to sensitize the society towards the needs of people with disabilities.
Like any sportsperson, many of them also aspire to represent India at the international level. What they hope for is government support and better infrastructure.