Nikke Ghumman (Gurdaspur District) Jun 27: There are several shrines in Punjab dedicated to the social causes of rural areas and promoting spiritualism. But a shrine in Gurdaspur district has gained popularity over the years for promoting football.
Located in Nikke Ghumman Village, about 15 kilometers from Gurdaspur, the Sant Baba Hazara Singh football academy has formed a team of village youngsters who have been trained at this academy. Baba Amrik Singh, the Head of the Dera Sant Hazara Singh to fulfill his master's cherished wish to eradicate drug-addiction afflicting rural areas of Punjab, opened the academy in 2002.
It was started with nearly 22 children mostly from the poor families and the academy took upon itself the responsibility to provide them all facilities including education and training.
Soon the academy's efforts started paying off, as it won many prizes and awards in State and national level events. Since then the Dera has been enthusiastic in providing free education and other facilities to its players .
Besides imparting education and football training, the players were also imparted spiritual lessons by Baba Amrik Singh.
"I feel really proud that in a very short span of time boys at our academy have started achieving their set goals and become an inspiration for others who wish to achieve something useful in life," said Baba Amrik Singh.
Every day all players here practice on the grass grounds of the Gurdwara .
Baba Amrik Singh says that from this year onwards the academy has started receiving a little bit help from the Government but that's inadequate. We need a lot to provide international-level facilities to our players.
Tarsem Singh, a former Village head (Sarpanch) said that the academy was hailed as it was helpful in preventing children from taking to drugs and follow the righteous way through sports.
Parents of nearby villages also send their children to this academy to learn football along with taking education.
"Even though the academy is situated in the remote area of Punjab but we have got students with full zeal to play football and wanted to adopt this game as their carrier, said Harinder Singh, who is coaching football to the payers for last four years at the academy.
Singh feels that after the Indian Football Federation in India started conducting several tournaments at every level, the craze for football has increased amongst the youth.
Starting with a runner-up position in the Punjab School Football Tournament (under 14) in 2003, the academy has won the title in 2005.
Its players in the under-16 and 17 category made a clean sweep of three major State-level tournaments besides bagging the runners-up position in the first national inter-school football tournament in the under-16 category.
The Academy boys have also played in prestigious national-level tournaments such as the Subroto Mukherjee Cup, and the Manchester United Premier Cup.
Eight of its players have made it to the Punjab under-16 team, the highest number from a single academy in the State. By Ravinder Singh Robin