The COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown has put a damper on a precision ball sport for the differently-abled called Boccia, which had just started catching up in India even though it has been part of the Paralympic Games since 1984 and is played in around 120 countries.
The Para Boccia Sports Welfare Society, India, with its head office in Punjab’s Bathinda district, has been promoting the game in India. This sport was introduced in India by Jaspreet Singh Dhaliwal, who is from a small village called Ablu in Bathinda.
“Boccia India has been recognized by the International Federation of Federation of Federation of Boccia (Boccia International Sports Federation, London), National Paralympic Committee (Paralympic Committee of India) and the MYAS, New Delhi. Today, the game is fully acclaimed throughout India. The main purpose of this is to engage those who are disabled. Boccia give many disabled players a chance to win medals in the Paralympics for India in the future…a chance to bring glory to their country…,” said Jaspreet Singh Dhaliwal, while talking to The Indian Express.
“At the Para Asian Games 2018 in Indonesia, India participated in Boccia for the first time. Indian players tested the waters and our national flag was hoisted in Indonesia. To play any game there is no need to be physically strong, but it is necessary to have courage, dedication and courtesy,” said Dhaliwal.
“The fourth Boccia national championship was organized at Lovely Professional University by Boccia India, in which around 30 participants had to participate. However, all participants couldn’t make it to the championship due to Covid-19 outbreak. We had to wrapped up the championship in hurry,” he said.
“Our players couldn’t improve their ranking to participate in qualifying events for the Para Youth Asian Games 2021, Bahrain and Para Asian Games 2022 Hangzhou, China as qualifying matches for both events were canceled due to Covid-19. Players can participate in these games on the basis of their world ranking. We are new in this game and hence qualifying matches were an opportunity for our players to climb up in ranking. Now we are not sure if qualifying matches will be held or not because games can be held on the basis of old rankings of players. There is an uncertainty about our participation so far,” said Dhaliwal.
He further said, “We have around 15 players across India so far, who play national and can go to international level. We couldn’t find new talent due to Covid-19. Also, our workshops for training players again were canceled. We made attempts to coach players online and keep them engaged in the game.”
How Boccia is played
Boccia can be played by anyone who suffers from disability caused by spinal cord injury, severe cerebral palsy, severe muscular dystrophy, transverse myelitis, severe poliomyelitis and high-level amputation of both knee and leg. It is played using 13 balls — six red, six blue, one white and six blue. The white ball acts as a target ball during play.
There are total three events — single, double, and team. The main objective of the players in this game is to hit a ball against the target ball in the game and throw the ball near the target ball. While playing, the distance between balls is measured by the referee from time to time. The referee gives a signal to the player opposite the player whose ball is near the target ball, to throw the ball toward target ball. The referee examines all the balls’ distance at the end of the game and players are given points based on the balls closest to the target ball. The sport is played in 4 rounds. The highest scorer wins.
Players are classified by doctors on the basis of their injuries. There are different categories such as BC-1, BC- 2, BC-3 and BC-4. Players play in their own category.