The Bihar women’s rugby 7s team expectedly won their two group matches, against Gujarat and Delhi, on Wednesday, September 28, at the TransStadia ground in Ahmedabad. As the tired but satisfied players trudged off the scuffed grass in the evening sunlight, their young South African mentor, Kiano Fourie, made enquiries about the transport back to the hotel. (More Sports News)
The Bihar girls are also national champions in the sport. Fourie made a brief pit stop to talk to Outlook about what makes the state good at an unlikely sport.
“It’s an initiative on the state’s part, they see a lot of potential in rugby,” said Fourie. “They’ve decided to put a lot of emphasis on it.”
Rugby also offers players a break from the harsh realities of their lives, if any.
“Whatever their difficult circumstances at home, sport always brings you this beautiful sensation of, ‘Ok, there’s something else in life. I can forget about anything that I’m going through and I can focus on playing’. I feel Bihar is seeing the importance of that,” Fourie said.
Fourie is a protégé of Ludwiche van Deventer, coach of the Indian national rugby 7s side. He combines coaching and playing. Gigs in various parts of the world, he says, give him an opportunity to “expand our experience of the game.”
“Ludwiche van Deventer has an academy in South Africa,” Fourie said. “Boys like myself, we join the academy. We train for a year or two and we get international opportunities, so we have a chance to play as well. We have connections in Germany, the US… we play the HSBC 7s in Dubai. And we also get to coach teams.”
Asked if the Bihar team has any natural attributes, Fourie said, “They have speed. A majority of them can take on most people in a race. Skill wise, they adapt quickly. Their need and want for knowledge is also a big thing. They will come to you on a daily basis and they want to learn something new, even a small trick.”
Saviours in lab coats
For spectators and fans, sport means two teams or individuals playing against each other. But for an organizer, a single game entails detailed planning.
Vital to the conduct of any game is the medical team. Young physios and doctors in white lab coats are, therefore, a common sight at TransStadia.
On September 26, before kabaddi action began, Ketan Pandya, a physiotherapist and nodal officer for all the physios at the venue, was seen briefing his team. On a table at courtside were large, translucent first aid boxes and other medical equipment, such as sphygmomanometers, tapes, ice packs, sprays and ointments.
“The medical team is a combination of therapists and medical officers,” said Pandya, whose glasses and high hairline lent him a studious look. “We have all the arrangements required for the players, and to get them back on to the field as soon as possible.”
Abhay Patel, a physio, was another member of the team. Prior to National Games, he was on duty at Khel Mahakumbh. “I’ve studied sports physiotherapy. Thanks to getting exposure at events like the Khel Mahakumbh, we have some knowledge of taking care of athletes,” he said.
Drushik Vakil, a medical officer from the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, was one of the key people in the team. An MBBS, he has also done a Fifa diploma course in sports medicine.
“Our job is to ensure players return to the dressing room in the same healthy condition they came in,” said Vakil. ”In the case of any emergency, we have ambulances standing by. And we have a license with a local tertiary hospital. We just have to inform them, and they will be ready to take the athlete in for further treatment.”