Forget women, Tripura fails to even field a full-strength men’s team at volleyball nationals
Men's Volleyball Team, Tripura

Guwahati: Forget about a women’s team, Tripura couldn’t even gather a full-strength men’s side at the ongoing 71st edition of the Senior National Volleyball Championships for men and women, being held at the Sarusajai Stadium in Guwahati. 

From Tripura, a six-member men’s team landed in Guwahati on February 4 with bare minimum hopes, even as the rest of the squad was left stranded back home.

Ajit Kumar Bhaumik, the coach of the side, claimed that the flight that was supposed to ferry the remaining members of the squad to Guwahati was cancelled and as a result they had to play the tournament with the six available options.

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“We had a total of 12 players, but the flight got cancelled, because of which we are left with no other option,” Bhaumik told EastMojo after the side succumbed to their fifth successive defeat on Sunday.

Bhaumik, however, had no excuses for the next obvious question from EastMojo, about getting the players on the next available flight. 

EastMojo had previously reported on the apathy of Tripura’s sports administration when it comes to providing infrastructure or even the basic facilities to the state’s athletes.

Well, if you are expecting any change from the authorities, you will be deeply disappointed. Tripura’s sports is still in doldrums, to the extent that the state could manage to field a team of 13, for the smallest contingent at the Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG), currently underway in Madhya Pradesh.

Back to the volleyball national championships here, the Tripura team lost all five of their preliminary round matches, to be ousted from the competition. Bhaumik, however, doesn’t seem disturbed by the eventual outcome. The reason, as he puts out, “There is lack of infrastructure back home, the teams do not have proper courts to practice.”

A vital point that Bhaumik did not want to lay his focus on was the availability of a specialised coach for the sport in Tripura. 

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For the record, Bhaumik claimed himself to be a former long distance runner, and a retired government school teacher.

“I am a retired teacher, I was an athlete. My event was long distance running. I was a part of the gold medal winning team during the All India Cross Country Championships held in 1983. I have been associated with sports since then in various capacities, as a manager, official,” he said.

When EastMojo insisted in what capacity he was travelling with the volleyball team, Bhaumik said, “Yes, I have come here as the coach.”

Bhaumik, however, has no qualification of being a coach of a state team. According to the rules stated by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) for appointment of coaches, the basic criteria demands a Diploma in coaching from SAI/NIS or from any recognised Indian or Foreign University.

The other two rules do not apply in case of Bhaumik as he wasn’t even a volleyball player during his player career, and naturally hasn’t been part of the Asian Games, World Championships or the Olympic Games.

“I went to NIS to participate as an athlete during my playing career. I was a general teacher, and retired as a headmaster. In Tripura, there are coaches, but when you don’t get facilities why would you bother to care for the team,” he said.

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So what, according to you, has plagued sports in the state? 

“See, the basic thing is sports associations must work simultaneously in sync with the government and vice versa. The outgoing government wanted to put all its might on the associations and such pressure tactics do not work,” he said.

“If you compare with other states, governments support their respective state Olympic associations, but in Tripura, the case is different. If an association is running smoothly in Tripura but doesn’t suit the narrative of the government, they tries to create a new one,” he explained.

“The current association is headed by Rupak Deb Roy, but he has been at loggerheads with the government. If the government supports him, Tripura can get better results in national-level events. The basic requirement is infrastructure. Our golfers use the course owned by the battalion, the state doesn’t have a golf course of its own,” he claimed.

“Let’s see if the new government does something for the betterment of sports in Tripura,” Bhaumik signed off with a faint hope.

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