The Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA), has been conducting inter-school tournaments in different disciplines for decades, but they are yet to come up with a solution to a problem that dogs them every year.
They just can’t find ways to reduce the burden for those children, who end up representing their schools in multiple disciplines. More often than not, these youngsters find themselves being a part of both the football and hockey teams, and the fact that these tournaments are scheduled almost simultaneously, makes it difficult for the players to deliver their best performances consistently.
Yesterday, Don Bosco (Matunga) played their Ahmed Sailor U-16 knockout match against St Paul’s (Dadar) at Azad Maidan at 9 am. A little over an hour later, eight players of the football team figured in the U-16 Aga Khan hockey competition at MHA-Mahindra Stadium at Churchgate.
The Matunga side won both matches — beating St Paul’s 4-0 and St Andrew’s 7-2 (in the Aga Khan semi-finals) — but the boys were an exhausted lot.
“I cannot do much if there are common players in a team playing hockey and football.
It is the school’s lookout to ensure that the same players do not participate in two disciplines. It is becoming very difficult for us to concede to last minute requests every time. If they want to play they can, or else they can give a walk over if they are finding it difficult,” said MSSA football secretary Anslem Alphonso rather tersely.
Don Bosco’s Marc D’Souza, who played both matches yesterday, explained: “Since many of our players are part of both the football and hockey teams, giving priority to one sport becomes very difficult. We didn’t even get time to rest today. We finished playing the football match and had to get ready to reach Churchgate. We had a 10-minute snack break before reaching the hockey venue. In the second half of the hockey match, we were really tired.”
Meanwhile, Bosco’s football coach Leslie Machado said: “This is not the first time we are facing such an issue. MSSA is least bothered about rescheduling fixtures accordingly so that children don’t suffer.”
Javed Sayyed, the Bosco hockey coach observed: “When we play club matches, the players are asked to rest for 24 hours before a match. In this case we are dealing with kids who require greater care. They have ended up playing three matches in a span of 24 hours. But MSSA is least bothered.”
Time to act
The warped scheduling has also left parents a worried lot. Just like D’Souza, Aidan Da’Costa also plays both football and hockey for Don Bosco. His father Ivan was furious. “MSSA is killing our children’s future. These kids play these matches with enthusiasm, without bothering about the repercussions. But MSSA as a schools body should understand and act accordingly.”
Schools like St Stanislaus (Bandra) and St Anne’s (Malad) too are faced with similar situations and want a re-think on MSSA’s part. “There are seven players common in the school’s football and hockey teams. It becomes very taxing as a coach to handle the situation. We don’t want our children to suffer.
At the same time the school’s reputation is at stake. So we have to manage somehow and convince the kids and parents to allow them to play,” said Roy Fernandes, the coach of St Stanislaus.