Mumbai to host India’s 1st wheelchair basketball league

The premier league will be played on Saturday at the Mastan YMCA, Nagpada, and on Sunday at the International House, YMCA, Bombay Central; on both days, the tournament will begin at 4 pm.

Sherine RajUpdated: Friday, March 11, 2022, 11:17 PM IST
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For the first time in India, watch 60 wheelchair-bound sportspersons, including a Pune team of Army jawans injured during wars, will play the basketball premier league. On Saturday and Sunday, in Mumbai, the teams will play matches to change people’s mindsets towards disability and to rally for making Mumbai accessible for the disabled.

The premier league will be played on Saturday at the Mastan YMCA, Nagpada, and on Sunday at the International House, YMCA, Bombay Central; on both days, the tournament will begin at 4 pm.

This is an initiative of NGO Project Mumbai, which has formally signed a partnership with the Mumbai Wheelers Wheelchair Basketball to promote the sport through opportunities for players.

The players include over 20 national and international wheelchair players and also players from the Armed Forces Paraplegic Rehab Centre (PRC), Khadki, comprising jawans and officers who were injured while serving the country.

Project Mumbai CEO Shishir Joshi said, “Project Mumbai’s effort to support these teams includes providing infrastructure for players to ensure they can compete at the next Paralympics and other international events.” He said the organisation’s objective is to build at least 1,000 such players across Mumbai and Maharashtra.

One of the players who will be participating today, Vinod Rawat, said, “I lost my left leg from below the knee below due to an accident when I was six years old. When I turned 26, I received an artificial limb, and within three hours I learnt how to ride a cycle after which there was no turning back for me. Now I play sports, climb mountains and go bike riding as well.”

Rawat said, “Through initiatives like this tournament, we are emphasising on a very important issue which is lack of accessibility for the differently-abled. Recently, my friends and I visited a coffee shop where I could enter because I had my artificial limb but my friends couldn’t enter as they were on wheelchairs and there was no ramp. To avoid even such basic accessibility, we need to create awareness through such tournaments and events.”

Another player, Geeta Chouhan, said, “We have never played against Pune players earlier, so I’m really excited. My team and I practice every weekend at the basketball court of Mumbai University where we have sharpened our skills and we are ready for the match.” Chouhan said accessibility is very important because even if they have to meet someone, they have to call them in advance and ask if the place is accessible or not.

The coach of the Pune team, Louis George said, “We have 20 players, it was difficult to even get them out of their houses, but we managed to teach them basketball and they have become excellent players now and I’m proud of them. There is a separate vehicle arranged to carry the wheelchairs which are not foldable.”

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