Multiple Disability Football brings new hope to para-athletes in West Bengal, and this is all thanks to the collaborative effort of Civilian Welfare Foundation, TMC Ward no.95, JR Foundation, 5 Mad Men and Sudhamata Foundation. On April 7, for the first time ever, a state-level Multiple Disability Football tournament is being organised with the state government’s support. This tournament aims to provide para-athletes with the opportunities and support they deserve to compete and play.
Sanjoy Das, a national Multiple Disability Football player, said the worst scenario for any athlete is not getting opportunities to play, and the condition of para-athletes in West Bengal has only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many athletes were forced to pivot to other professions to make ends meet. This tournament is an effort to change all that.
Not only will the tournament provide an avenue for para-athletes to play, it is also supported by Mad Men, which is the first sports pub in the country to actively support Paralympics. It is the initiative of such organizations that has braught multiple disability sports into the limelight. Aroop Biswas, Sports and Youth Affairs Minister, Government of West Bengal expressed his pride over being part of this initiative and hoped that the state will create the right infrastructure for para-athletes to use their full potential for the greater glory of our nation.
The arrival of multiple disability football has been instrumental in reviving para-sports in India. Since its introduction in 2019, athletes with any form of disability except visual impairment and wheelchair have been given the opportunity to participate. This matches the approach taken by FIFA’s Forward program established in 2016, which supports the development of football as a sport for people with disabilities.
West Bengal has seen a shift in the number of para-athletes competing on the international stage since 2017. With the disbanding of the Bengal Para-Swimming Association, low-cost sports were needed as screening sports to reach out to para-athletes at the grassroots level. That’s why organisations like CWF have focused on Multiple Disability Football as a screening sport to identify and nurture para-athletes across the state.
Atar Ali, an Asian Games 2023 qualifying para-athlete from West Bengal, said that only providing opportunities and low-cost screening sports is not enough. He expressed optimism that the tournament will help popularise disability sports and garner more support for para-athletes from the general masses.
The grassroots support and awareness provided by Civilian Welfare Foundation has made the tournament possible, while JR Foundation and 5 Mad Men have provided crucial funding and infrastructure. The contributions of the KMC 95 ward and the Sudhmata Foundation has further strengthened the tournament. It is their collective strive that has changed the paradigms of disability sports in West Bengal, and will hopefully open new doors of opportunity for para-athletes to excel and make our state proud.