PANAJI: Disability Rights Association of Goa (DRAG) is upbeat about the prospects of Goa table tennis (TT) team at the forthcoming National Para TT championship going to be held in Indore, Madhya Pradesh from March 17 to 19.
However, mobility problem poses a huge obstacle in their way to win the trophy. Due to inaccessible nature of railway infrastructure, the team can’t travel by train. They have planned air travel which is very expensive. In the backdrop, the president of DRAG, Avelino de Sa has appealed to all good Samaritans for helping with sponsoring the travel, which would cost more than one lakh rupees.
“Goa Para TT team of 10 members (six players, two escorts and two officials) are going to participate in Para Table Tennis National Championship at Indore to be held from March 16 to 20. Considering their difficulty in travelling by Railways due to inaccessible platforms and toilets in train, it would good if they could travel by air. The air travel and stay combined would cost them around Rs 1.3 lakh. Hence we are trying to get some sponsors for the same,” de Sa says.
DRAG have always shown interest in ‘para sports’ and have received many opportunities to participate in various tournaments. First they started with basketball then cricket and now table tennis. They still need a lot of exposure to bring home medals.
The Goa’s para athletes are full of enthusiasm and passionate towards excelling in sports. In 2018, wheel-chair bound players were introduced to basketball. The visually challenged cricketers of Goa were runners-up in the final of the Paras Mal Champions Trophy, an inter-state cricket tournament for the visually impaired, held in Ajmer Rajasthan recently. Now, the team para TT team is all geared up to make the State proud.
“However, due to inaccessible railway platforms and toilets in the trains the players have to use their funds more on travelling by air. They can’t afford to pay for the expenses from their pockets. Hence, I appeal to all good Samaritans to help fulfil their dream of playing the championship by sponsoring the team,” de Sa said.
The team has practiced hard for the tournament. DRAG got infrastructure support from Sports Authority of Goa, Goa Pharmacy College, Sanjay School and Lok Vishwas Prathisthan. They also practiced at Shyama Prasad Mukherjee indoor stadium.
"I used to play table tennis in school and higher secondary on a daily basis. Once I reached college I stopped playing as much. After I started working I stopped completely. In 2016 I met with an accident and injured my spinal cord. I was paralysed from the chest below,” says Lloyd Fernandes, one of the para-TT team members.
Doctors advised him to do a lot of exercise to keep his heart healthy. He used to get fed up of doing the same exercises day after day. But then there was a new source of motivation.
“When I read that DRAG was organising a ‘para TT’ coaching camp for an upcoming tournament, I decided to join it. I had completely lost my touch, but I knew the basics. That helped me win the North Goa district level tournament,” Fernandes says.
After that, he has been attending practice sessions regularly.
“I requested some friends, Anderson and Jude, who are good at the game to help me improve my game," he says.
According Vishant Nagvekar, who is member of the Goa’s wheel-chair basketball team and the TT team, DRAG helps the para-athletes to come together to play various sports.
“In the recently held North Goa district level TT tournament, I won silver medal. Para-sports is new to Goa state. Some of us are promoting various kinds of para-sports in the State. We are lagging behind compared to other States due to lack of financial support and awareness. I would wish more and more youngsters from Goa should join the sports for fitness and win medals for Goa at national and internationals level," Nagvekar says.
Another team member Likhil Kavalekar joined the DRAG after his graduation. He was always active in sports.
“I go for swimming at Ponda Sports Complex for my fitness. Last year Goa Para-TT Association was formed and I have been a regular member since then. Currently I am going regularly for practice-cum-coaching at Ponda Sports Complex under Jaywant Hammannavar. I got moral support from my parents, office colleagues, friends and family. It will be great if we get financial assistance as it will allow more aspiring players to take interest in sports," he says. (For sponsorship call Avelino de Sa at 9326120003)