Former Indian hockey team captain Viren Rasquinha has stepped forward to help out the hockey players, coaches and staff working at the grassroots level in India after most of them were left struggling to make ends meet during the Covid-19 enforced lockdown.
No sporting activities have been permitted since the Indian government enforced a nationwide lockdown in March. Even though the restrictions have been eased to an extent in different parts of the country, sporting activities have remained shut. Their family incomes have also declined during this period.
“Most of the sportsmen in India come from a poor background,” Rasquinha told Scroll.in.
“I was made aware that almost all the players playing in local clubs in Mumbai were struggling to put food on their tables. Their respective father’s incomes had dried up and there was a danger of hockey losing talented players. So I decided to help out,” he added.
Rasquinha through his non-profit organisation Olympic Gold Quest in collaboration with Go Sports Foundation is set to reach out to 200 beneficiaries that include players, coaches and groundsmen who contribute to keep the game alive at the grassroots level and help groom young talent.
The former midfielder set a target of contributing Rs 10,000 to every beneficiary so that these players are able to sustain their families during this period.
On Tuesday, Rasquinha announced that he had managed to collect funds in excess of Rs 22 lakhs.
“My first thought was to help out on a personal level but after running the idea with the OGQ board, and Nandan Kamath the Managing Trustee of GoSports Foundation, we decided to take it up as a joint initiative. We felt it was important for people in sports to work together during this crisis,” Rasquinha said.
“We reached out to our trusted intermediaries across India and identified promising and deserving players who were serious about the sport. The aim is to ensure we keep them in the sport and they’re not lost,” he added.
The former midfielder reached out to Conroy Remedios the coach of Republicans Sports club in Mumbai, K Arumugam who runs One Thousand Hockey Legs, an NGO based in New Delhi, former Indian hockey player Dilip Tirkey who runs an academy in Odisha, Bharat Chikara who coaches in Haryana and Jude Felix Hockey Academy who helped him identify players, coaches and other deserving staff members from the zones where they operated.
“We made a conscious effort to make sure 25 percent of beneficiaries are women. And we have been able to approximately reach that figure,” Rasquinha said.
The payments are expected to reach the beneficiaries in the next few days.