Category - Sports

Not Just A Sport Anymore

2All of us are brimming with passion. Some things that we are utterly passionate about can do us good. Sometimes, however, the things that we are passionate about can also do others good. Gurmangal Dass is an individual who turned his personal passion into a belief on a national scale.

He had a passion for sports. So after he was done with education, instead of opting for easy success and money, he chose the road less travelled. His main agenda was to revive sports across the state of Punjab, one village at a time. It seemed like an impossible task at first, but this gentleman was not about to quit easily.

It started off with the actual making of the football field with farmers traveling far distances to collect grass to make the field. Next came the part where youngsters were lured to take up this path and excel in the field of sports. What started as one man’s dream has now grown into a collective one. Today, there are over 40 students in the football academy and over 12 centres for coaching all over Punjab.

Heroes like Gurmangal Dass often go unnoticed. It is essential to acknowledge the presence and dedication of unsung heroes like him. It is people like these who, while they dream big, facilitate others in the pursuit of their own dreams too.

Pakistan Women Paid Pittance To Make Soccer Balls For FIFA

Every FIFA World Cup comes with a new winner, a new theme song, and of course a new official match ball. This year’s soccer ball is the Adidas ‘Brazuca’ (slang for ‘Brazilian’), and it features a beautiful multi-colored design.

Fans can purchase balls for $35, while those used in the tournament are a whopping $159.99 each.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani women who assembled them were paid 10,000 Pakistani rupees, or $101.73, per month. That’s less than the price of a single game ball for an entire month’s salary.

10,000 rupees is the minimum wage in Pakistan – compared to the $325.69 per month minimum wage in Brazil and about $1,160 per month in the U.S.

While 10,000 rupees goes a long way in Pakistan, where the unemployment rate is six percent, Adidas could surely afford to pay more for such a lofty undertaking.

Is international labour cheap because that’s just the way it is, or can big businesses lead the charge in raising international wages and workplace standards?

Pakistan’s Forward Sports factory reportedly produced 100 balls per hour – that’s roughly $16,000 an hour in profit and 90 % of those who crafted the balls were women. They wore veils in the production line, and took about 40 minutes to complete a single ball.

On the flip side, producing balls for the World Cup was a dream come true for factory owner Khawaja Akhtar, who was once just a poor cobbler repairing punctured footballs for colonial-era Brits, according to local legend.

While the pay may seem slim, the reports say the women are treated well at the factory, and it’s a place that generally empowers its workers. Many of the women at Forward Sports are the first in their families to have jobs. They also receive life insurance and transportation.

Now that you’re beginning to feel a bit better about these women and their tedious jobs, keep in mind that there’s no doubt that companies like Adidas are still exploiting the use of cheap labour in developing countries. And there’s no doubt that well-off Western companies have the power to come together to raise wages and workplace conditions for people around the world.

It’s time to raise the international standard and do away with the inequality and injustice the consumer industry is built on.

Race Against Time

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Meet Anirban Tarafdar, our Campaigner of the Week!

He’s challenged himself to complete a full marathon – the Hartford Full Marathon (in Hartford, Connecticut) in October 2014. That’s 26.2 miles of sheer determination and a whole lot of training going towards it. With his wife expecting to deliver their baby in July, this US-based marathoner has a tall order ahead of him. Currently juggling work and commuting with shared household duties, and making time for his family and fitness regime, Anirban Tarafdar is pushing his limits in a manner that has us awed.

Though he has been devoted to sports most of his life, etching out a regular timeslot for it has been a challenge. “Free time is hard to come by. Eleven years of working has made that apparent. Nowadays, whatever happens, I spend some time doing exercise unless my family needs me for something more important. I have programmed myself like that,” the 35-year-old shares. “I try to run 3-4 times a week and play tennis once a week. I use to play soccer on Friday late nights (11 p.m.) but had to stop because of my long runs over the weekend. I used to get hurt every now and then which hampered my running,” he explains.

Anirban’s association with marathons first began in 2005. “That’s when I first came to USA, to Tampa, Florida. I heard about a running group from a colleague and my interest was piqued. What inspired me was the human spirit to overcome the challenge of a long-distance run. During it, at some point the body gives up. Only those who continue to endure the pain and don’t quit reach the finish line. I think that is an amazing experience. I have run half marathons only but I am eager to experience the pain of 26 miles.” The marathoner has participated in 3 Half Marathons so far – two 10 kilometres and two 5 kilometres.

While following marathons, Anirban began to notice a trend – a lot of people would run to raise funds for a cause. “That gave me the idea. I had always wanted to do something for India. Since sport is my passion, I thought doing something for Indian sports would be perfect.”

“In the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the Indian participants did not even have proper clothes for the opening ceremony march past. I heard the television commentator remark that there were only three participants from a country of billions. As an Indian, it felt quite insulting.”

During the 2012 Olympics, Anirban came across a Facebook post by Olympic Gold Quest and got to know about their work to support Indian sportspeople. “Apart from a handful of sports, most Indian athletes do not get the necessary recognition and facilities. This is why I donated to Shiva Keshavan’s campaign last year. And why I did my own campaign and did my best to raise more funds. I am thankful to my friends who felt the same and supported the cause of Indian sports.”

“India does have the talent. If proper facilities and opportunity are provided, India can bring more medals in a lot of disciplines. If China can win so many medals in the Olympic,s India should be able to do so too. India should concentrate on Olympic sports. For example, swimming: if we have one champion swimmer he/she may participate in 4-5 events which will bring 4-5 medals. India should concentrate on events of these kinds to increase the medal count.”

Here’s to a brighter future for Indian sports. Here’s wishing Anirban all the best for the 2014 Hartford Full Marathon. And here’s wishing the Tarafdars all the best for the stalk that will be visiting them soon with their little bundle of joy!

 

Gooooal!

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Let the trumpets sound! Let the drums roll! It’s a goooooooal!! In more ways than one! Well, we’ve got some incredible news to give. Two of our campaigners – rifle shooters Ayonika Paul and Pooja Ghatkar – have reached their goal thanks to the benevolence of the beloved, respected, generous, amazing, most dignified of human beings (yes, we love him madly) Amitabh Bachchan!

The two super athletes are part of the Medals4India initiative being run by the NGO Olympic Gold Quest, under whose auspices these and other athletes – like discus thrower Vikas Gowda and speedwalker KT Irfan – currently are. Ayonika and Pooja have campaigns running on Ketto to raise funds for their training towards the Commonwealth and Asian Games. Thanks to Mr. Bachchan, the ladies need look no further for financial support.

Let us add here that Ayonika Paul brought home a bronze medal in air rifle shooting at the World Cup just a few hours back!

Here come some more medals for India! Thank you, Amitabh Bachchan!

Check out the story in the news:

The Times of India

The Indian Express

India Today

IBN Live

Zee News

Watch the campaign video that had Amitabh Bachchan tweeting past midnight!

Want to be as cool as Big B? Support Vikas Gowda and KT Irfan! Let’s get all our athletes to the Games. Let’s win India more medals and glory!

He’s Got The Power!

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Vikas Gowda is one of four Olympic medal aspirants who, with the support of Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), is campaigning on Ketto to raise funds and compete with  his international counterparts. 

The 6-feet-9-inches-tall Vikas Gowda has several feathers in his cap – a Major in Mathematics from the University of North Carolina, a silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, a national record and an eighth finish at the 2012 London Olympics. With an already luminous career, this 31-year-old discus thrower and shot putter is all set to make India proud at the upcoming Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

You were the first Indian to ever enter the finals of a throwing event in the Olympics. How does that feel?

It feels good. I work hard and there is a lot that I want to accomplish.

You are a Mathematics Major from the University of North Carolina. How did you balance your time between academics and sports?

When I was in school it was tough to manage time. You have to prioritize and make sacrifices so you can succeed in both academics and sports.

How were you introduced to this sport?

My father introduced me to sports. He was a decathlete and national coach in India. I would go practice with him when I was a kid and that’s how I started.

Walk us through your training regimen.

I throw three to four times a week. I also lift weights, do sprints and plyometrics. There’s a lot of work that goes into preparing for the season.

How many hours a day do you have to practice?

I train a minimum of four hours a day but most days are about six hours.

What are the costs associated with your training?

There are a lot of costs associated with my training. Coaching, training equipment, access to facilities, supplements, proper diet, travel, medical, and rehabilitation require a lot of funds.

How would you compare the standard of training in India and that which is available abroad?

The standards in India are improving. Around the world it is very easy to access good training facilities. India has good facilities but not very many. When I was a kid growing up in Maryland, there were so many tracks and tennis courts, basketball courts, and other sports facilities within a ten-minute drive of my house.

What has been your biggest achievement yet?

I think my silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, making it to the finals at the London Olympics and winning gold at the Asian Championships in India are my biggest accomplishments.

How is crowdfunding important to you and other rising athletes?

It is very important. It shows the athlete that people care and want you to succeed. It’s going to help me bring my coach with me to Commonwealth and Asian Games.

Explain OGQ’s role in your life and career.

OGQ has played a very important role in my career. They believed in me when no one else did. Without them I don’t know if I would have reached this level.

What systems, structures and establishments do we need in India to give Indian athletes a better chance at winning at the Olympics?

I think the most important thing that can be done is making access to facilities easier. That will increase the talent pool and give India a better chance of winning medals in the Olympics.

Vikas-Gowda with gold

Changing The Face Of Indian Sports

Ours is a cricket-loving nation. That is indubitable. The past few years may have seen football gradually getting its foot in the door (pardon the pun), but in terms of mass appeal and interest, that’s where the buck stops. The field of Indian sports has rather narrow parameters today. The amount of support – financial and otherwise – is gravely lacking when it comes to athletic sports and games.

Interestingly, even the craze for cricket seems reserved only for the national- and international-level competitions. State and college-level competitions don’t get much backing nor spectator interest. Where there are lakhs being spent on televising international competitions, with investments in multiple high-tech cameras and whatnots, state level competitions see a miniscule percentage of financial backing and very poor media coverage.

On one end of the spectrum is the advent of the IPL, which gave cricket furor a whole new glamorous dimension.  And at the other end of the spectrum is our ‘national sport’ hockey, which sadly gets played to near-empty stands. It is unsurprising then that Olympic track and field sports such as shot put, javelin throw, discus throw and others like speed walking, luge and air rifle shooting have little backing and still lesser audiences. Even major sporting events like the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics generate meagre levels of interest among sports enthusiasts in India.

It is a sobering truth that Olympic medal aspirants who are immensely talented are struggling to match international levels of competence because they don’t have the kind of facilities and infrastructure their foreign counterparts enjoy. Athletes like Shiva Keshavan (luger), KT Irfan (speed walker), Vikas Gawda (discus thrower), Pooja Ghatkar and Ayonika Paul (air rifle shooters) were lucky to have the NGO Olympic Gold Quest supporting them, helping them get the training and equipment they sorely needed to prepare for the  competitions.

It is a crying shame that KT Irfan initially trained without a proper pair of shoes because he couldn’t afford them. Today, this athlete – who is also an army man – is a national-record holder. Pooja Ghatkar made the daring decision to pursue rifle shooting over a mainstream career, even though she knew funds would be a constant struggle for her. She won the gold medal at the Asian Air Gun Championship in Kuwait this March, amongst other successes. Ayonika Paul, an incredibly disciplined athlete, realised she couldn’t ask her parents to fund her sporting career. Today, she has won multiple medals in the Senior National Championships.

These successes and future ones are India’s for the taking. All Indian sports needs is for us to believe in it. All our athletes need is for us to believe in them. The way Olympic Gold Quest has. The way Ketto has. They way you can. Fuel their journey to the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Support these amazing athletes and pave a path for a brighter future for Indian sports.

Ketto’s initiative for Indian Sports: http://ogq.ketto.org

Donations can be made here:

Pooja Ghatkar: http://ogq.ketto.org/campaign/campaign_details.php?fmd_id=89#.U4WEFJSSxF0

Ayonika Paul: http://ogq.ketto.org/campaign/campaign_details.php?fmd_id=94#.U4WD_ZSSxF0

KT Irfan: http://ogq.ketto.org/campaign/campaign_details.php?fmd_id=93#.U4XFKZSSxF0

Vikas Gowda: http://ogq.ketto.org/campaign/campaign_details.php?fmd_id=92#.U4XFLpSSxF0

Thank You!

Team Ketto

Ace Shooter Hits Bull’s-Eye

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Ayonika Paul is one of four Olympic medal aspirants who, under the wing of Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), is campaigning on Ketto to raise funds to compete with  her international counterparts.  Learn more about the ace shooter in this in-depth interview.

Ayonika Paul is a young and talented 22-year-old rifle shooter who has represented India in many international tournaments. She made her mark globally in 2008 when she won the gold medal in the International Junior Shooting Competition in Munich.

A complete all-rounder, Paul is also studying engineering in Bombay and is equally committed to sports and academics. She has won several medals in the Juniors category over the years and today she is a serious threat in the Seniors league with her consistently excellent performance. With her fierce dedication and determination, you can trust this woman to shoot a bullet right through the competition.

In this exclusive interview with Ketto, Paul speaks to us about her journey, how she balances her time between sports and academics and what she requires to make India proud at the next Commonwealth Games.

How were you introduced to this sport?

Summer holidays for me were about lazing around and also exploring different sports and arts. I indulged in many different sports like basketball, water-polo, skating and dancing, whereas swimming was a regular activity. However, when I heard about shooting I was thrilled because guns had always fascinated me. In my first inter-school competition, I scored 144 in open sight, and over time, the sport took me over. I couldn’t get enough and wanted to shoot regularly.

You are only 22 and you have achieved so much. How do you balance studies and play?

I have a good sense of time. Since I was a child, my mother would tell me that I need to first complete my studies and only then would I be allowed to go for my training. Even now that discipline works for me. Whenever I study, I am fully focused and the same applies to shooting. I carry my books during all my tournaments. I believe in quality over quantity and enjoy whatever I do each moment.

Walk us through your training regimen.

4 AM: Wake up

4.15 AM-7 AM: Study

7 AM: Breakfast

7 AM-9 AM: Nap

9.15 AM: Yoga

10 AM-1 PM: Training

1.15 PM: Lunch and Rest

2.30 PM-4 PM: Training

6 PM-7.30 PM: Swimming or Gymming and Stretching

8.30 PM: Dinner

10 PM: Sleep

How many hours a day do you  practice?

Four and a half to five hours a day.

What are the costs associated with your training?

My shooting jacket and trousers cost approximately Rs. 70,000. Shooting shoes cost Rs. 18,000. Weapons are  Rs.1,70,000. I also incur additional costs for physiotherapists and sports psychologists.
How would you compare the standard of training in India and that which is available abroad?

The past world champions and record holders are now into coaching and sharing their ideas and experiences. There is a path that they have found and they’re open to new ideas and experiments. They know how and when to peak. There is research and development on sports science, which is yet to be developed in India.

How is crowdfunding important to you and other rising athletes?

Individual sport is still not a recognized area. It is motivating for all athletes around the world to learn that our Olympic dreams are being supported by a number of people in our country. It boosts my confidence to train harder as I can go abroad for a longer training period and play more matches and leagues, thus taking me closer to the six coveted grams of gold.

Explain OGQ’s role in your life and career.

Whenever I wanted something in shooting, I asked my parents. But I realised that training under the best coaches and mental training would be too expensive. Even though I felt the need, I couldn’t ask them to fund it. OGQ has given me this opportunity. I have to walk this path to reach my destination and OGQ is the light to guide me along this journey. They have provided me with a sports psychologist and world-class physiotherapist, which is essential for me.

What systems, structures and establishments do we need in India to give Indian athletes a better chance at winning at the Olympics?

Good planning, research and development and strong belief in our athletes.

Want to help Ayonika realise her dream and bring home a medal for India? Support here!

Shooting For The Stars

Pooja-Ghatkar

Pooja Ghatkar is one of four Olympic medal aspirants who, with the support of Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), is campaigning on Ketto to raise funds and compete with  her international counterparts.  

Pooja Ghatkar, a 25-year-old air rifle shooter, created history this March after clinching gold at the Asian Air Gun Championship in Kuwait by defeating world champions Yi Siling and Du Bei of China.

Ghatkar has proven her talent at various international tournaments  sports and plans to continue to shine at the international circuit in the upcoming World Cup competitions in Germany and Slovakia.

How were you introduced to this sport?

During my school days I started training under the National Cadet Corps as an extra activity. The main purpose behind this was to remain physically active. While going through the NCC camps, I was selected for the All India Thal Sainik Camp, Delhi, where I won a gold medal in the juniors category. But since I needed to focus on my academics at that point of time, I had to give up shooting. It was my mother’s belief and will that got me back into training for shooting again.

What is it like being a woman in a sport so closely associated with men?

For me, any sport is a sport, irrespective of whether the competitor is a man or a woman. Both require equal levels of stamina, hard work and concentration to excel. It is our mind which sets up these differences. In fact, I think shooting is more woman-oriented.  If we check the participation levels in shooting matches, the number of women participants is far more than men. The best part of shooting is that there is no age bar for competing. Everyone can enjoy the sport.

How many hours a day do you have to practice?

My training depends on my annual competition schedule.  Generally during a non-competition period I train for about 5-6 hours daily, which gradually increases as a match approaches.

What are the costs associated with your training?

Shooting is one of the most expensive of the sports. I am a rifle shooter and my basic requirements like rifle and shooting kit (jacket & trouser, shoes) cost around Rs 300,000. For my daily training, I need quality pellets to shoot, which cost Rs 900 for a tin with 500 pellets. In a year, I need approximately 80 pellet tins for training and matches.

I am also training under world record-holder Thomas Farnik. A seven-day training camp under him costs approximately Rs 300,000-350,000. These are a few important costs associated with my training.

How would you compare the standard of training in India to that which is available abroad?

India is still at a developing stage as compared to other marksman countries. The main drawback in India is the lack of quality Indian coaches.  A coach plays a very important role in any athlete’s life. If we look at China, we find that each athlete has his or her own team, which includes a personal coach, physical trainer, mental trainer, doctor and nutritionist who work with them. All these people plan a perfect routine for the athlete.  They consider each and every small aspect that can help the athlete improve. Such team work is not found in India. Every athlete needs good support and qualified people to show them the right way and to help them understand themselves better.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

After wining various domestic and international competitions, my biggest achievement was winning the gold medal at the Asian Airgun Championship, Kuwait in March 2014 by defeating the World No. 1 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist.

How is crowdfunding important to you and other rising athletes?

According to me, crowdfunding is one of the best ways in which an athlete is helped to conquer his or her dreams through the common man.  People are able to know the athlete not after he or she wins an Olympic medal but before, and are able to help them on their road to success.  Crowdfunding will boost my confidence as people’s support and blessings are very precious to me. Indirectly, it shows the trust people have in an athlete. So the dream of an athlete doesn’t remain only to himself or herself but it is shared and becomes the dream of all Indians.

Explain OGQ’s role in your life and career.

The difference in me before and after becoming a part of OGQ is vast.  OGQ is like a strong ladder which is helping me climb each step firmly towards my goal. After OGQ offered to support me,  everything changed. I received proper technique and physical and mental approach towards shooting. OGQ has supported me in acquiring my new rifle, pellets, shooting kit and other small requirements. The team has helped me in participating in international invitation matches which helped me gain international exposure.  It was because of OGQ that I was able to train abroad under the world’s best coach. OGQ is like a family, which is always there to support you in times of need, push you when you feel low, drag you up when you are falling back and always be with you in each loss and win.

 

Want to be part of Pooja’s dream to bring laurels to India? Support her!

KT Irfan: The Malappuram Express

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KT Irfan is one of four Olympic medal aspirants who, under the aegis of Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), is campaigning on Ketto to raise funds and compete with  his international counterparts.  Learn more about the speed walker in this in-depth interview.

KT Irfan is fondly known as Malappuram Express, a moniker inspired by the name of the small Kerela town that he hails from. He became the pride of the nation after finishing 10th at the London Olympics in race walking, a sport rarely heard of in India.

Irfan’s contribution to India and sport is immense, and he consistently proves his mettle at international events and as a part of the Indian army. Irfan holds a national record in the 20 km race walk with a timing of 01.20.21 seconds. It is now time for the country to give back to this soldier who needs a helping hand to recreate magic at the upcoming Asian Games.

Here’s a Ketto exclusive as we talk with Irfan about how his relentlessly training, the costs he incurs and what this country needs to change the landscape of sports in India.

Tell us about your time in the Indian army.

I joined the army as part of the sports quota in March 2010. I trained under Subedar Ramkumar in the Madras Regimen Centre. I participated in the ATNK & K area meet and won the gold medal in 2010, clocking 1:33:12 seconds. In the same year, I won gold at the Services Meet with the time 1:27:12 seconds. In 2011, I started my journey with my current coach Gurdev Singh.

Has your army training benefited your athletic abilities?

After joining the army, I was posted in Ooty where I trained most of the time. The climate in Ooty was extremely effective for conditional workouts. The army facilities were top class. It was a very crucial period in my sporting life.

How were you introduced to this sport?

My entry to sports was accidental. I come from a small village in Kerala. Football is the most popular sport there. I always liked sports. There was one walker in my village named Ribas. He was considered the best walker in Kerala. I used to serve refreshments to Ribas and sometimes note his training timings.  One day, some of my friends suggested I try race walking when I accompany Ribas. I tried it for a few days and started liking it. That was the turning point in my life. After that, I participated in my school meet and defeated the state champion. In 2007, I was called for trails in SAI Calicut and was selected. That marked the beginning of my professional sports life.

Walk us through your training regimen.

My training starts at 5am every day:

Morning training:

  • 1km run warm up
  • 5km walk warm up
  • Full body stretching and then my training work out starts

Evening training:

  • 1km run warm up
  • 1km walk warm up
  • Walking training
  • Ends with stretching

How many hours a day do you have to practice?

Morning – 3 hours

Evening – 2.30 hours

What are the costs associated with your training?

It’s difficult to estimate, but I require a minimum of two pairs of special walking shoes every month. Each shoe costs about Rs 10,000-15,000. Additionally, I need nutritional and medical supplements every month coupled with physiotherapists and a masseur’s fee.

How would you compare the standard of training in India and that which is available abroad?

The standard of training abroad is far better than India. In terms of infrastructure, support staff etc., they are way ahead.

What has been your biggest achievement yet?

Finishing 10th place in London Olympics in 2012 with the time of 1:20:21 seconds, which is a national record.

How is crowdfunding important to you and other rising athletes?

Crowdfunding is very helpful for those athletes who want to continue in their respective sports but can’t do so because of financial problems. It’s the main reason why young athletes drop out from sports. Through crowdfunding, people come to know about the sport and the athlete, who are working tirelessly to bring laurels to the country. I am sure every proud Indian wants to see India as a top sporting nation.

Explain Olympic Gold Quest’s role in your life and career.

I signed with Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) after the London 2012 Olympics. It was a very good step for me in my sporting career. I am thankful to OGQ for their full support. The cost of accessories in my sport is very high and for someone like me who comes from a middle class family, it is very difficult to afford it all. But with the support of OGQ I am getting world class shoes, sports equipment and physio assistance. And it is not just the financial support but also the mental support which the OGQ team gives me, which is really beneficial. They are available for me 24×7.

What systems, structures and establishments do we need in India to give Indian athletes a better chance at winning at the Olympics?

Lots of things have to be done. For example:

  • Need to provide world class infrastructure
  • Athletes should be given quality food supplements
  • More international exposure for training and competition
  • Each athlete should have a personal physio and masseur
  • Proper financial assistance as per the need of the athlete

I feel there is immense talent in India. If given proper attention, India can be one of the top sporting countries in the world.

 

Want to help KT Irfan  represent India and vie for an Olympic medal? Click here to support!