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Wheelchair basketball spreads its wings to the North East, Manipur plays host to first workshop

Imphal in Manipur is making history. The city is hosting the first ever wheelchair basketball workshop in the North East. The Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI) has partnered with NGO Shishu Sarothi and the local state government to make this event happen.

Para sports is making its presence felt across India. This is in large measure due to the persistent efforts of organizations like the WBFI. They have enabled the rising popularity for para sports.

Wheelchair basketball was first introduced in India by the WBFI, which held workshops and tournaments in various parts of India.

Twenty-five aspiring players have signed up for the camp, of which five are women. There are two professional coaches - Lee Roy Simon from Bengaluru and Suvarna Limahe from Pune. The wheelchairs have been sponsored by Shishu Sarothi.

Rules of the game

The players at the workshop are split into two teams. They are being trained in the basics of game, which include the fundamentals and techniques on how to play basketball.

A wheelchair basketball player has to use the same techniques and space like how a person with no disability plays the game. We are trying to make our players get a grip of the game during the first couple of days. - - Kalyani Rajaraman, General Secretary, Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India.

There is a lot of learning involved especially for players from Manipur, who have disabilities in the lower limb. They are used to crutches and need some time to get comfortable using wheelchairs in the first place The first three days of the workshop are being dedicated to just that.

The workshop ends today after which the WBFI will hold an exhibition match. Here, players will be divided into two teams and they will get to show people what they have learned.

Once the final match is over, 10 players will be identified to participate in the upcoming 5th National Wheelchair Basketball Championship 2018 in Tamil Nadu. The players chosen will represent Manipur in the championship. This will be the first time that Manipur is a part of this national championship, so its a big moment.

Rajaraman says they are training just 25 players at the workshop so they can give them personalised attention. "We see there is a lot of potential, and we want to bring out the best", she says. What has been encouraging is the support from the Manipur government. There are plans to make Manipur the venue for the 2018 wheelchair basketball championship.

Holding the workshop will help build greater popularity for the game as well. The WBFI hopes to encourage more disabled people in Manipur to take up wheelchair basketball professionally.

There are some challenges, like the lack of specially designed wheelchairs. Here too, there is a ray of hope as the government has committed to buying 12 basketball wheelchairs. These will be stored at the stadium where the workshop is being held.

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