Sher-e-Punjab sports academy transformations rural Punjab

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Ludhiana, Mar 23 (ANI): A lot has been said about how sporting talent from rural areas should be nurtured and given exposure at national level competitions.

Chakar village in Ludhiana District has set an example for others by doing precisely this. The agriculture-dominated hamlet is prosperous and majority of people from here have settled abroad. And, they have been contributing immensely to the development of village infrastructure and sports. The Sher-e-Punjab Sports Academy is the result of their efforts. Everyday in the late afternoon, the stadium comes alive as village youth play a football match.

Canada-based Baldev Singh Sidhu and other village patrons formed the sports academy in 2005 and had it registered in October 2007.

"Sports are very important because they keep one's mind and body fit and healthy and when someone is fit, he or she can do well in studies and other activities as well. Moreover, the youth today are getting into bad habits and committing crimes, so if they develop an interest in sports, they can be stopped from getting into unlawful activities," said Ajmer Singh Sidhu, NRI and chairman, Sher-e-Punjab Sports Academy.

Boxing is another important game at the academy and over a hundred boxers gets training free of cost.

The academy, which generates fund from donations from non-resident Indians and villagers, provides many facilities to the budding sportsmen. It spends 4 to 5,000 USD annually on training and sports equipment.

Since its inception, the academy has won over 30 medals in boxing at state level competitions.

In the current session, it won four gold, three silver and two bronze medals at the state-level boxing championships.The sports academy encourages youth from nearby villages and helps nurture their talent.

"We are being given free coaching in various sports in the village and commuting to this place is not a problem," said Sumit, a player.

Satish, another played added, "I have benefited a lot from this academy because here in village we are provided with all the facilities that are available in cities and towns. The academy has accomplished my dream of becoming a player. I want to become a player of international fame."

But, for its expansion it needs more funds to improve the infrastructure and get the required equipment.

Though the academy has good coaches, but more appointments are in the pipeline so that more attention can be given to individual sportsmen.

If the State Government steps into help such academies, rural talent can be nurtured efficiently.

"The children in our village have a huge potential. If given a chance they can prove themselves at the international level. We don't have good sports facilities in the villages and even the government is doing nothing in this direction. We have got complete support from NRI brothers of our village. So if the government also starts paying attention, the villages can do well in sports," said Balwant Singh Sandhu, president, Sher-e-Punjab.

More youth are joining the academy to hone their skills. Even those who are not considering taking up sports professionally are joining up in effort to keep themselves physically fit.

The village academy has plans to promote talented sportsmen for further training in academies run by the Sports Authority of India in the cities. By Karan Kapoor (ANI)

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