Pulling empowerment, pushing away drug abuse – with rugby


By Sukant Deepak
Chandigarh, July 6 (IANS) As soon as dawn arrives in Chandigarhs Panjab University sports ground, chances are you may come across young men and women wrestling each other with a rugby ball. It can be quite a sight considering that the game has never enjoyed a popular appeal in the country. But for those playing here, not only is it a serious activity, it is hardly ‘just a game. A closer look, and you will notice that the participants are not just those from the middle and upper-class.

With social upliftment and woman empowerment as driving force, the ‘Rugby Warriors Club’, a professional sports club formed in 2016, which has been consistently participating in the National Rugby Championship since 2017, has ensured that more than 150 youngsters from across villages near Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali find themselves a community in its fold.

Karan Singh Khati, the founder and a National level Rugby player, says, “We were clear from the very beginning that it must serve a larger social purpose. It was important for us that the club should not be an elitist, and those who did not afford training and were from the lowest economic strata must feel welcomed. This holds true for both sexes. At a time when rampant drug addiction is such a major issue and women from simple families need something to boost their confidence to take life head-on, this seemed to be the perfect idea. Rugby demands that one pays attention to fitness, and be mentally sharp. “

Becoming Champion Club in India by winning the Women’s title of Champions in National Callaghan Cup Division II Rugby XV’s Championship 2019 at Panjab University, Chandigarh, it has come a long way.

Vikrant Singh, the manager adds, “We have seen it grow every day. Some youngsters living in the slums would just observe for a few days before finally approaching. It is amazing how being part of a sport can be instrumental in boosting a person’s confidence and shaping his life — we have seen it with our own eyes.”

Stressing that more steps need to be taken to promote the game and make it popular among youngsters, Singh says that what makes it unique is the fact that it boasts of multiple factors — speed, strength and stamina. “Also, it is a very spectator-friendly game. In a state where wrestling is so popular in the countryside, rugby can enjoy a special position in the urban areas.”

Khati says he felt the importance of starting a rugby club here, which recently sent five players for the National trials, owing to the fact that it is a game that happens to be the national game of six countries. “It has immense potential. With the right backing, sponsors and publicity, we can shape some really good talent.”

(Sukant Deepak can be reached at sukant.d@ians.in)


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