Inventing a game is one thing but to propagate it steadily and organise its third World Cup in only 12 years of its inception is certainly a herculean task. Raju Dabhade, a sports teacher at Bal Shikshan Mandir school in Mayur Colony, had invented the roll ball game – a combination of skating, handball and basketball – in 2003. Since, he has extensively visited countries from Belgium in Western Europe to Belarus in Eastern Europe and Russia to Africa and America, meeting sports federations to explain the concept of roll ball through rule books and CD presentations. His efforts bore fruits and today as many as 30 countries are registered with the International Roll Ball Federation (IRBF).
The announcement of the third Roll Ball World Cup, which is set to take place at Balewadi sports stadium in Pune between December 14 and 20, was made in the city recently. In 2011, Denmark had claimed the first World Cup by defeating India at Balewadi. India wrote a redemption story in 2013, defeating hosts Kenya in a tightly contested final in Nairobi. However, the participation went down from 16 in the first World Cup to 10 in the second as most of the European countries backed out due to Westgate shopping mall terrorist attack.
“The attack had taken place a week before the competition was scheduled to kick off. Many countries thought it won’t be safe for their players, but Kenya was ready to organise and provide security. The competition took place, but with a fewer teams. This year, we are expecting as many as 35 teams,” said Dabhade, inventor of the game and General Secretary of the Roll Ball Federation of India (RBFI).
According to Dabhade, there are as many as 1 lakh active players of the game across the country. “Majority of the players are from Maharashtra and Rajasthan, followed by Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh. Almost all the states, including Jammu and Kashmir, have some representation in the game,” said Dabhade.
The selection of players for the tournament will begin after a senior national tournament in Kerala which is scheduled for August-end. “We will shortlist 30 players from this tournament for a month-long residential camp. Thereafter, a 12-players squad will be finalised for the World Cup,” he added.
RBFI is also giving exposure to young players to participate in various international roll ball competitions around the world. “Our players have been visiting various places like Minsk, Colombo and Moscow to study the training and playing styles of the foreign teams. These tours are important for their development,” said Dabhade.
When asked about the secret ingredients of the game that made it popular in such a short time, Dabhade said it is the pace, accuracy and balance of the game that makes it popular. “It is like football or hockey. Something or the other keeps happening on the pitch all the time,” he said . The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has already given recognition to the game and its registration in Olympics is in the pipeline.