The evening sun shines on Kunal Kharab’s face as he begins the race to throw the javelin. He runs a short distance, holding the spear slightly above his head and sending it soaring through the air. He landed about 60 meters away. There are around 50 other young people practicing the game in the new javelin arena at the Mundhela Kalan complex in Najafgarh. In addition, more than a hundred of them are playing football on the new synthetic turf, practicing the long jump and running on a new 400-meter synthetic track.
“Najafgarh is no longer just a matter of wrestlers or cricketers, it is the largest sports center in the city with the best sports facilities in the city, where children play all possible sports”, explains Vikas Lakra , athletics trainer at the complex. “Since Neeraj Chopra’s astonishing Olympic victory, the number of people wishing to learn the javelin has doubled here,” he adds.
Today, hundreds of young people and children as young as six can be seen playing sports such as boxing, volleyball, badminton, soccer, hockey, shooting, wrestling in several facilities. private and government sports, which have emerged in recent years. in Najafgarh. Indeed, today the region has more than 50 indoor and outdoor sports academies, which have sprung up in recent years.
The Delhi government has also made a big push for sports infrastructure in the region, investing around ??150 crore in the development of multisport complexes. In addition to the Mundhela Kalan complex, which has a football field with synthetic turf and athletic tracks, the government is also developing an 18-acre residential sports complex in the village of Kair at a cost of ??140 crores.
A FIFA approved football pitch and cricket ground are ready in Kair, and work is underway to develop tennis and basketball courts, a swimming pool and residential quarters for players. In addition, the government has set up wrestling and kabaddi mats at Vyayamshalas (gymnasiums) in many villages such as Dichaon Kalan, Mitraon, Dhansa, Issapur, Mundhela Khurd.
“We are creating world-class sports facilities in Najagfarh, where sport is a way of life. Previously, due to the lack of good sports facilities, local children would go to different parts of Delhi, now sportsmen from other parts of the city and even from neighboring states come to Najafgarh ”, explains Kailash Gahlot, MP local and the deputy of Delhi. Minister of Transport. “These new sports complexes, where athletes will receive specialized training, will greatly help to encourage local talent and allow them to compete at the international level,” adds Gahlot, himself a former footballer.
Najafgarh and the surrounding villages have been a hub for traditional Indian sports such as kabaddi, wrestling and Kho-Kho. He produced famous wrestlers, including Sushil Kumar, and kabaddi and Kho-Kho players.
Villages such as Rawta, Malakpur Zer and Kair are known for their kabaddi teams; Baprola, the village of Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar, was famous for its wrestlers. The village of Mitraon had a Kho-Kho team which won several zonal tournaments from Kho Kho to Delhi.
Almost all the villages in Najafgarh have their akharas, where young wrestlers have honed their skills. From their village akharas, they often passed to Bhagwat Swaroop Akhara, Najafgarh’s most famous akhara, and from there to the Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi, where the three Indian Olympic medalists Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt and Ravi Dahiya trained. .
“Here, young people practiced traditional rural sports with a view to joining the armed forces. But now the new generation is embracing many other sports like boxing, badminton and those who can afford it are getting into cricket, ”says Anil Solanki, a sports coach who lives in the village of Baprola. “Cricket is an expensive game and it only gained ground in Najafgarh after Virender Sehwag played for India.”
Indeed, until Sehwag, who earned the nickname Nawab from Najafgarh, played for India, cricket was a marginal game in Najafgarh, with no training facilities. In 1990, a cricket coach named Sashi, who ran the Surmount Club, established a summer cricket coaches academy in Najafgarh. Sehwag joined the academy and played for the club. He then trained under AN Sharma at his cricket training center in Vikaspuri.
His rise to fame in the early 2000s inspired many local young people to play cricket and Najafgarh has since produced many players such as Pradeep Sangwan, Kapil Yadav, Nitin Yadav, who played at IPL and represented Delhi in first class cricket. Today it has many cricket academies, many of which were established over the past decade in what were not so long ago agricultural estates.
Nepal Singh, who says he played cricket with Sehwag in Najafgarh during his formative years, now runs a badminton academy that has four indoor green maple wood courts and synthetic Victor flooring. He is currently busy adding another land to his academy. “More and more young people here are entering individual sports in their quest for a deeper sense of personal achievement and glory. The demand for these sports academies in Najafgarh is increasing rapidly as all the parents here want their children to play sports. Most of the academies are run by local athletes, ”he says.
It’s late afternoon and a dozen young boys and girls are training in his indoor academy. One of them is Akshit, who spends six hours in the academy morning and evening. Ask him why he chose badminton and he says, “I hope to play internationally one day. Plus, this game is affordable and I think it will help sharpen my body and mind. Unlike in the past, there are good badminton training facilities here in Najafgarh, ”he says. Nepal Singh says many of his wards have played at the state level and in the Delhi Badminton League (DBL).
Today, Najafgarh has several private badminton and tennis courts. But based on the number of sports academies, boxing appears to be one of the most popular sports in the region. More than a dozen boxing academies have sprung up over the past five years, where hundreds of children and adolescents – girls and boys and some as young as five – can be seen on the train. to practice their punches.
Boxing coaches claim that this growing interest in the combat sport was inspired by the growing number of Indian boxers who feature prominently in international events, the growing number of boxing tournaments and championships in India and the associated glamor. in boxing. “The young people of this predominantly rural area are smart and well-built, and boxing is an ambitious sport for them,” says Brij Mohan, who founded the MB Boxing Academy three years ago.
“Nowhere in the city is the boxing craze as intense as in Najafgarh. In fact, I have a lot of students who have given up on kabaddi and wrestling for boxing. Many of our students are children of former and current wrestlers and kabaddi players, ”says Mohan. About a dozen of its 50 students are girls, including 16-year-old Vishi Balyan, who gave up the kabaddi for boxing. “Women are as good at boxing as men. My only goal is to win an Olympic medal. If Lovlina Borgohain can do it, so can I, ”Balyan says as she waits her turn for a training bout in the ring.