Having tasted organisational success with the Fifa Under-17 World Cup, the state government wants to do more for sports development. After handing over 15 acres in New Town to All India Football Federation’s for National Centre of Excellence, it has now focused on tennis. An academy was launched last Saturday at Bengal Tennis Association (BTA) where promising youths will be coached free of cost.
“We have signed an agreement with BTA to nurture 50 talented youths. They will be from two age groups — 9-12 years and 13-16 years. The coaching will be sponsored by our department,” said Sayeed Ahmed Baba, principal secretary of the department of sports and youth services.
The government, added sports and PWD minister Aroop Biswas, will publish advertisements seeking applications. The selection will be done by BTA. “There is no infrastructure for tennis in the districts. If players come up from there, we will also offer boarding and lodging facilities at the youth hostel in the stadium complex.”
BTA president Hiranmoy Chatterjee was full of optimism at the initiative. “Bengal has produced 10 Davis Cuppers. We want to continue that legacy. We will groom players to represent the state and then hopefully the country.”
Two of the 10 were present on the occasion. “Tennis is an elitist game. The government wants to give an opportunity to all,” said Jaideep Mukherjea, who runs his own tennis academy in FE Park and is the honorary vice-president of BTA.
The other, Akhtar Ali, is on the committee that has been set up for the newly launched Bengal Tennis Academy. “Our next step will be to promote tennis in the districts,” he said. Asked whether youths from under-privileged backgrounds would lack the build and the stamina, he said the association had dieticians and physical trainers on its rolls to work on that. No decision has been taken yet on the schooling of tennis students who would be lodging permanently at the youth hostel.
The BTA has six courts for adults and two mini courts where children play with soft balls. It has been running training programmes of its own with about 750 students on its rolls. “But there are no vacancies currently. One has to sign up on the waiting list for a vacancy in one’s own age group to get in,” said secretary Mihir Mitra. Coaching fees are about Rs 14-15,000 per year.