Fencing is an old sport but is new in Goa in terms of evoking public interest. Despite being one of the oldest sports in existence, it took time to ferment in India – the first senior national was held in 1981 in Lucknow- and it pollinated to Goa in 2011.
Fencing was introduced in Goa by Anagha Warlikar who had to adopt the State as her home because love drew her here from her native Maharshtra. And so, along with her love, a sport has begun to grow. Anagha is an athlete, a basketball player, who took to fencing during her sports studies in Patiala.
“I thought of introducing fencing in Goa because when I first came here, few people knew this game or were even aware of it. It is a game for people with explosive speed and agility. It is an individual sport where everything depends on one self,” explains Anagha.
“Unlike many other sports, fencing is a game where an individual’s mental strength has to be strong. A player needs fraction of a second to overcome the opponent. A second can make you a champion. It is about doing the right thing, at the right time,” believes Anagha.
“Fencing is not a sport that can offer a career to an athlete. In fact, during my stay in Goa I have realised that sports does not offer any career opportunities to sportspeople here. It is different in other States and that is why not only fencing but people in other sports too see no benefit in being actively involved in sports ,” muses Anagha who is still of the opinion that sports is the best antidote to healthy life.
Goa has not really excelled at the National level because, according to Anagha, the government is yet to appoint a fencing coach. “I have been spending and have had the financial support from our president Yogesh Thakur. But for how long can two individuals be spending from their pockets to develop a sport? There is a limit and at some stage the Government must help and we are yet to see such help,” avers Anagha who is the secretary of the Goa Fencing Association (GFA).
Fencing is yet to take off as a sport in Goa. At present, there are about twenty odd children learning the ropes of the sport and most of them are students from out of Goa who have settled in Goa or are settled here because their parents have done so for long.
Fencers representing Goa in the Nationals have not done extremely well or badly because Goa has managed to win a couple of medals. Yet, the names of athletes read like Abhigeari, Saini, Nigam, Bhandhari etc…etc… But, this does not worry Anagha because she believes that the development of individuals begins with sports and winning is not always the only goal.
“The lack of government coaches is the biggest impediment to the spread of the game in Goa. There have been occasions when I have used my influence in Pune and Patiala to get coaches from there here. But, how long can I go on like this. At some stage the pockets began to tear and that is when the state is expected to help,” thinks Anagha.
Fencing is one sport that is included in the 36th National Games and the GFA secretary is confident the Games will help boost interest. “For sure, we will not be able to field all fencers from Goa. We are thinking of a ratio of one Goan for three fencers from outside. We are thinking of getting people from Services and with them, hope to improve the standard of our sportspeople,” confesses Anagha.
“The idea is to introduce fencing to Goa during the National Games and the best way to do that is by fielding a good team. Fencing is an exciting sport and that excitement should seep to the people” believes Anagha.
Goa has one fencing coach – Deepak Rajput – who trains around 18 to 20 students and he charges each one of them. “Deepak was one of the first fencers to grow under the association and he has from being a fencer turned to training and has now completed a course. He is the only resource at our disposal,” claims Anagha.
Around twenty girls and boys practise at the Athletic stadium in Bambolim every day and a dozen to do so at a basketball court attached to a school. “The equipment costs around Rs 15,000 per participant and equipment is electronically tagged. During a bout all scores are electronically monitored so there is no scope for manipulation,” believes Anagha.
“Through so many years, I have time and again approached the Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) and the Director of Sports and Youth affairs requesting for coaches but, have still not succeeded in getting them to sanction a coach or two. If we had government coaches we could have started two or more centers in Goa. At the moment, we are concentrated in Bambolim and Panjim. The game needs to go to the hinterland,” laments Anagha.
“Actually, the National Games is the best platform for us to spread interest and popularity of fencing. We have been waiting for the Games for four years. Now that they are going to be held in 2020, we hope to pierce interest in Goa,” believes Anagha.