Tribune News Service
Patiala, March 4
Extreme hard work is the only way of success for the wrestlers and despite limited Government help, wrestling is one sport that continues to survive on private akharas (where wrestlers dwell and practice). But despite Punjab housing more than 1,000 akharas, the desired results are yet awaited.
The routine for an average wrestler here starts at as early as 3.30 a.m. when they prepare for their practice sessions. At 4 a.m., they are all slugging it out in the akhara. After the session, they cook their food and then sleep for a few hours before getting ready for their evening session.
A common scene at any of the akharas in Punjab, which rue lack of Government support and thus very few wrestlers reach the top. “There is no mat in our akhara and we practice on mud,” claimed a wrestler participating at the Shaheed-e-Azam Punjab Games in Patiala. “Despite repeated reminders, the Sports Department has paid no heed to our requests. These Games are just one seasonal offer, but the Government must seriously think of lifting the standard of preparedness of wrestlers by extending help.”
Usually, ahead of international competitions, grapplers have to prepare themselves for mat wrestling. Many believe this is one of the major reasons why many wrestlers do not succeed. "Though international wrestlers are required to play their matches on mats, it is the dug pits that are usually preferred as they are cheap and require less space and no Government help", echoed wrestlers gathered in Patiala.
Indian wrestling, which dates back to 5th Century B.C, has its roots in the Indian style of wrestling, which means mud bouts. Numerous akharas in the country have given some great wrestlers in the past, but due to the Government apathy, these akharas are slowly going dry and have come to the point of extinction.
Punjab wrestlers are generally known to play local matches on dug earthen pits and they have been doing the same from the past many decades. "Almost all wrestlers in the country who have represented the country are products of some akhara," said Sandeep Singh, who runs two such akharas.
“Our life is very strict as we are not allowed to go out alone and have to stay away from girls, liquor, tobacco, cigarettes, pickle and social life,” claimed another wrestler Prem Bir from Samrala. “These Games are just an eyewash and another competition to win cash prize. However the Government must do something to sustain wrestlers at a young age when they join this sport,” he told TNS.
Meanwhile a Sports Department official claimed that all possible help is being extended to the akharas.