While the Rugby World Cup concluded recently with New Zealand emerging as the winner, the game is becoming quite popular in the state as almost 7000 students are involved in the game despite there being no Rugby ground in place. After initial hiccups, Rugby has now caught attention of youth across the state, especially the Valley. Such is the liking for the game, that hundreds of female Rugby players are among the 120 schools and 26 colleges who have added this sport to the list of extracurricular activities.
According to Irfan Aziz, Secretary, J&K Rugby Association, the sport is played in 14 districts in the state, however there is no permanent play ground for the association or Youth services to conduct major tournaments. “The popularity of Rugby has grown by leaps and bounds ever since our association was formed in 2004. We have produced 17 international players which also includes a girl. We are badly in need of a dedicated Rugby ground,” Aziz said.
The acceptability of Rugby among youth is increasing to a level that three state level tournaments have been held in the Valley during last three weeks said Muzaffar Tramboo , District Officer, Youth Services and Sports . “The three day Inter-district state level Rugby tournament organised by J&K Youth Services and Sports will also include trails for under-19 and under-17 School National’s scheduled to take place in Chhattisgarh in December this year,” Tramboo said. The state will be adding another feather in its hat by organizing the South Asian Rugby Championship next year, he said.
The sport of Rugby has also caught the attention of young children who regularly attend training camps organised by the department and the association. As part of ‘train the trainer’ campaign, regular camps are also held for coaches to hone their skills in ‘ level coaching’ said an official of Youth Services and Sports department. In the tournament which got kicked off in the city last week players from nine districts from across the state participated in the event . This includes six districts from Kashmir division and three from Jammu division.
Youngsters busy showcasing their Rugby skills in a football stadium here admitted that basic infrastructure for this sport in the Valley needs a fillip. Most of them said that they keenly followed the recent Rugby World Cup on Television. Zeeshan Ramzan, a standard XII student from Bandipora who took up the sport last year said his love for Rugby is due to the ‘mental and physical fitness’ involved in this sport . “Rugby does not consume so much of time and moreover its rules are crystal clear,” Ramzan said. Another youngster, Danish Majeed said the need for a good body structure and stamina has attracted him towards the game. "I am looking forward to be selected for the under 19 School Nations which will be played in Chhatisgarh. I enjoyed watching the Rugby World Cup and learnt several laws and sublaws involved in the game," Majeed said.