In the spirit of celebrating independent thought, it becomes important to introduce you to Raju Dabhade, a self-made man who has put Pune’s name on the global map by inventing a new sport- The Roll Ball.
It is not an everyday occurrence that a new sport is invented. And it is even more singular to note when the game is invented by a Punekar himself. Raju Dabhade, a physical education and sports teacher at the MES Bal Shikshan Mandir English Medium School in Puneis the proud father of the game of ‘Roll Ball’.
Hailing from a family with extremely limited means, Dabhade’s story is truly inspiring. At the age of 15, because of various reasons, he had to take up odd jobs during the day to be able to continue his education at a night school. He eventually completed a Certification of Physical Education CPED in 1985 and went on to finish BA and B.Ed degrees. This landed him a job at Bal Shikshan School and that, he says, was the turning point in his life.
“I used to be really interested in understanding the origins of different sports. So I researched about them and got to know the technicalities of various games. And it was one chance afternoon in 2002, as I was teaching skating to some students, when a ball from the nearby basketball court came bouncing over towards us. I saw one student dribbling the ball on skates back to the players. And that got me thinking. Was it possible to combine these sports into one? It took me a year after that to formulate the rules and techniques of the game,” says Dabhade.
So what is this game of Roll Ball? “It is a fast paced, flowing game inspired from Skating, Basket Ball, Hockey and Hand Ball. Two teams fielded against one another, each comprising of 12 players have to try and score the maximum number of goals in a stipulated time. The players move in the field, of the size of a basketball court, on skates and they can dribble and pass the ball, similar to that in a basketball game before shooting it into the nets to score goals” explains Dabhde.
In February 2003, Roll Ball was officially inaugurated at the Balewadi Sports Complex and the Indian Roll Ball Federation (IRBF) was set up. From then on Dabhade and the game’s supporters promoted the game across Maharashtra by conducting workshops and distributing informational materials. After receiving a grand response at the state level, they took the game to national and international levels. Pakistan was the first country Dabhade approached and convinced them to come here to play a friendly match of Roll Ball with the Indian team.
In 2010, the first Asian Championship of Roll Ball was conducted in Hong Kong. And in 2011, the Roll Ball world cup was held in Pune for which 16 countries from Europe, Asia and Africa participated. Today more than 35 countries including Belgium, Italy, France, Denmark, Netherland and Sweden play Roll Ball on a serious level and it is also recognised by the Indian Olympic Association. Come December 2015, the third Roll Ball World Cup will be conducted in Pune.
Dabhade whose journey of sweat and triumph is truly inspirational, says, “Initially people were very skeptical about this ‘new game’. But it was clear in my mind that my idea has potential. And today I am glad I persisted with my efforts. However, I know for a fact that I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of the many well-wishers, my students and colleagues. Everyone gets an opportunity to succeed and it should not be snubbed due to self-doubt.”
After the tremendous response that the game has received from the international sporting community in just over a decade, Dabhade hopes that at least now, the Government of India takes heed of his continual appeals to fund Roll Ball and promote it. “I hope Roll Ball gives a boost to the Indian sporting fraternity and acts as a motivation for all the people. This journey has proved that one does not need much to serve one’s country. Working in your field of passion with a vision to do better and have an independent thought is enough” says the ever humble Raju Dabhade with a smile.