The 64-year-old hockey coach, who has been unearthing, nourishing and supporting local hockey talent free of cost in an expensive city like Mumbai for over three decades now, has finally got some recognition.
First, in the form of the Sports Journalists Association (SJAM) of Mumbai’s Lifetime Achievement Award in September, and now through CNN-IBN’s Real Heroes award last week. While the SJAM award was present to him by batting legend Sachin Tendulkar, he got his Real Heroes trophy from Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan recently.
The awards capped a fine year for Patel, who coaches Children’s Academy (Malad) and Our Lady of Dolours’ (Marine Lines) school teams, besides the Bombay Republicans cub outfit – all of whom have won numerous domestic titles this year.
Children’s Academy won five trophies this year including the District Sports Office organised U-17 tournament, Junior Aga Khan, U-16 Dhyan Chand Tournament, Bandra Gymkhana rink hockey title and Ambernath U-16 seven-a-side hockey title, besides finishing runners-up in three tournaments — Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA) league, U-15 Nehru Cup and the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana U-16 rink hockey tournament where they lost to none other than Our Lady of Dolours in the final. Our Lady of Dolours won the Mumbai District title and qualified for the State Championship in Nanded. Bombay Republicans meanwhile, won the senior title at Ambernath. More than his individual awards, Bawa treasures his teams’ triumphs. “Hockey is my life and when my teams win I feel I have won. While it’s heartening to get such prestigious awards, it is my team’s victories that matter more,” he said yesterday.
Meeting Sachin and now Amitabh though is extra-special, said the veteran coach, who boasts of being married to the national game. “Sachin is the Amitabh Bachchan of cricket and Amitabh is the Sachin Tendulkar of Bollywood. In hockey, I’ve not achieved even half of what they have in their respective spheres of work. So, to be awarded by both these legends is definitely very special. While Sachin told me to keep up the good work and promised support to the cause of uplifting hockey at the grass-root level, Amitabh said it’s because of people like us — real heroes — that this country is what it is today. Sachin and Amitabh have inspired me to work even harder now. I have given my life to hockey, now I hope I can die for it too,” he signed off.