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“Government apathy towards para sports demotivates us” - MyTake by Ebin Joseph

In #MyTake this week, we have Ebin Joseph, Kerala's wheelchair Rugby team captain. 25 year old Joseph, who is also a wheelchair basketball player and part of the Indian team, has won many championships.

I have always been passionate about sports since childhood. In spite of having an orthopaedic disability since birth, I have always been active in athletics and badminton. I hail from Kottayam, a small town in Kerala, and I have a lot of support from my parents and siblings to pursue my dreams. I completed my class 12 and soon realised that sports was my true calling. I decided to take it up full time.

Cricket is what always interested me. As a child, I used to play it with my friends and brothers.

My tryst with professional sports started in the year 2010. I attended a selection event at Kochi under the guidance of Father Mathew. I was noticed there and got selected to Kerala's wheelchair basketball team. Gradually, I became part of the national team, and it has been four years now since I'am playing for India.

Recently, we formed a state team for Kerala in wheelchair Rugby. For the national championship that was held last month, we won the first place. As a team, I had participated in the Wheelchair Basketball Asian Championship 2018 in which we won a Bronze for India.

Government apathy

Para sports in general does not have any support from the government, regardless of what state you come from. Due to this, most of us are unable to take our game to the next level or pursue our dreams. In fact, this is very demotivating and we are coming down.

In Kerala, this is even worse. When we recently attended the national championship for wheelchair rugby, we noticed many people from other states getting ample support from government. But we are left to figure out things on our own. Paying for travel expenses, accommodation, food and sports equipment is a huge task for us since most of us are not even earning.

"We need a lot of time to practice wheelchair sports in order to be able to represent our state or country at various platforms. Most of us are unable to work because we spend a lot of time on sports. I'am lucky to have a supportive family who stands with me through thick and thin. They help me financially too. But what about many others? They all have dreams and aspirations. But the government has to step in to support us".

Many hurdles

I drive my own car. So every week, I travel from Kottayam to Kochi, which is at least two hours drive, in order to practice sports at Rajagiri. There are no options in my home town.

Every month, I travel twice to New Delhi to practice wheelchair rugby. Being a wheelchair user, it is not an easy task since trains are inaccessible. It takes five days to travel to and back, but I do that purely for my love for sports. I leave everything and go behind it because this is my passion.

I often wonder why para sports is always side-lined. We get medals and still no one notices us. If other players without disabilities go for sports events, everyone gives that so much of importance. There are many talented para sports people out there, but they are unable to come due to this insensitive attitude towards para sports.

If the Kerala football team wins a match, they are praised, given money and even provided jobs. What about us? In fact, we take more hardships to attend sports events because all of us are disabled. There were days when I have travelled in general quota in trains to get to New Delhi. That is the kind of commitment that we do, and we are left unnoticed.

Recently, the Indian disability cricket team has been launched and I'am looking forward to become a part of it. They have invited me for the camp and I'am gearing up to attend that at New Delhi.

I believe that if we love something, we have to go behind it. There will be many roadblocks. But chasing your dreams and achieving them is truly a beautiful feeling.

Contact Ebin Joseph at +91 90610-17888.

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