Kolkata: Mohammad Rahul Haldar, a 15-year-old boy from Kolkata, won a gold medal in the 42-kilogram weight category at the Kickboxing National Championship in Delhi, along with four other students from the Umeed Academy. The students’ achievements are particularly significant, as they come from underprivileged background and live in slums.
Shahnaz Perween won silver in the 42-weight category, Afifa Perween won silver in the 32-weight category, Md Husnain Ali won bronze in the 40-weight category, and Raunak Khatoon won bronze in the below 10-year category.
Umeed Academy, which is home to 230 students from impoverished families, provides not just free education but a holistic approach to the overall development of its children. The academy sent six children to the championship, and five of them won medals.
Haldar’s father is a mason, while Afifa’s father is a barber. Husnain’s father operates an eatery, and Raunak’s mother works in a slipper factory, while her father has gone missing. Their achievement is significant as it demonstrates the potential of the underprivileged youth, who are often overlooked in sports.
The kickboxing participants were daily trained for two and a half hours by professional coach Sahil Akram, who is a state-level kickboxing player himself. Akram works with Toponomics, a center of training for Kickboxing.
Coach Akram has all praise for the champions. “The kids used to do cage fights in the academy under the guidance of Nuur Bhutia sir. In the last two months, they have undergone rigorous training. They had a lot of injuries too. They played in nationals without sparing. But they are born fighters, and it is in their genes to stand up to overcoming the injuries. The academy had hired a nutritionist for them, so their diet was good too,” he told eNewsroom over phone from Delhi.
“We need to work hard for future events, but I am optimistic about it as they are very talented kids,” Akram added.
Umeed Academy, the brainchild of social activist Wali Rahmani, has a twelve-hour curriculum for its pupils, which includes education, three meals, books, uniforms, and sports activities. He informed that annually, Rs 35000 expenses occurred on every child. The academy has been running for the last four years. It use to train its students in a variety of sports categories.
Rahmani claims that at least thirty students can be sent for championships under the mixed martial arts category but lack of funds has been preventing the academy from doing so.
The academy has had to bear a cost of around one lakh rupees to make it possible for six of its children to participate in the championship hosted at the national capital.
Rahmani during foundation stone laying ceremony of Umeed’s new building had highlighted on the need for funds to expand the academy’s operations.
He also has special thanks for Partha Sarkar and Supriyo Samanta, Heads of the Kickboxing Federation of West Bengal. They have acted as a catalyst for Umeed children otherwise, it would not have been possible, Rahmani mentioned.
The five medalists will now be participating in the next Asian Games in their respective categories.