The Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA) Athletic Championships seems to have caught the fancy of schoolkids. For, the inter-school track and field event at Goregaon Sports Club this year has received 2780 entries from 137 schools in 76 disciplines, which makes the current Championships the second best with respect to turnout after 2010 when 3200 entries were received.
“After receiving record entries in 2010 due to the Commonwealth Games fervour, this year has seen a good turnout too. I am glad that parents are encouraging kids to get into athletics. Their focus now is not just their kid’s education but also their all-round growth. Also, the focus that television and print news has bestowed upon athletes has led to kids showing a keen interest in taking up athletics,” said MSSA athletics secretary Ravi Bagdi.
Bagdi is confident that in future a kid will be able to pursue sports as a career with parents’ wholehearted support. “So far, there has been a slight change in the thinking of parents towards sports. They want their kids to excel both in studies and sports. If this trend continues, I am sure even in India, kids can take up sports as a career like in the European countries,” said Bagdi.
What makes the Championships attractive for kids is the fact that the best athletes from Mumbai City and Suburb schools compete against each other in the same event. Chaitanya Prabhu of Jamnabai Narsee (Juhu), who won a silver medal in the U-16 400m run, felt that the MSSA Athletic Championships were a benchmark for athletes.
“In other events, participation is restricted to a particular geographic location like Mumbai City, Mumbai Suburb, Thane District, etc. Here, there is no demarcation, it’s pure competition. I come here for the spirit of athletics,” said 14-year-old Chaitanya.
For Maneckji Cooper’s Pearlin Debara, MSSA athletics meet is about getting a reality check. “What makes this MSSA event the best is the fact that we get to compete against the best of both the city and suburban schools. It is an event that shows us exactly where we stand,” said Pearlin (13), who won a silver in the girl’s U-16 800m and a bronze in the U-16 400m run.
Meanwhile, for Aditya Birla World Academy’s (Tardeo) Yash Sukhani, the meet is not just about competition, it’s about camaraderie. “The spirit at the MSSA meet is completely different. The competition is healthy as the best athletes participate here. I have been participating in the event for six years and have made some great friends. Hence, I look forward for the tournament each year,” said Yash, who won gold medals in U-14 200m and 400m.