Renowned hockey coach Merzban Patel won the Sportstar Aces Award 2023 for the Best Grassroots Coach at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai on Monday.
Better known as Bawa, Patel has dedicated more than 40 years of his life to grassroots coaching in hockey.
He has produced several renowned players who have gone on to represent India at the international level and also won laurels around the world.
“It is unbelievable that I am standing here among so many legends, being only a talent spotter. Forty-five years of my life I have sacrificed everything for the sake of hockey. I achieved everything that I have without the help of sponsors, without any help from the corporates, without any help from any big individuals. Despite not having any sort of academy, I have just trained on a matti ground. In spite of this, we have been able to produce so many players. I can assure you I will be producing more players in the next five years; that is my job. I would also like to thank the Odisha Chief Minister for supporting the game of hockey to this level where India is holding a World Cup,” Patel said.
The list includes former India captain and Asia Cup gold medallist Viren Rasquinha, Japan’s national team coach Jude Menezes, Gavin Ferreira, and 2011 Asian Champions Trophy winner Yuvraj Walmiki.
Adrian D’Souza and Suraj Karkare are also his former pupils. Patel is recognised across the country as one of the most prolific guides in the sport.
The septuagenarian is the co-founder of the Bombay Republicans Club (launched on Republic Day by the late B K Mohite), which participates in Mumbai tournaments and the local league.
He also set up hockey training at the Children’s Academy (Malad), and Our Lady of Dolours (Marine Lines) and their teams compete in inter-school tournaments.
Without a formal degree or diploma in hockey coaching, his forte is talent-spotting and giving exposure to young players on the Republicans’ teams. It earned him the prestigious Dronacharya Award in 2019.
Legendary India cricketer Sunil Gavaskar, former India hockey captain M. M. Somaya, chess great Viswanathan Anand, former India football skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra and Olympians Anjali Bhagwat and Aparna Popat are the members of the Sportstar Aces 2023 jury.
The event is supported by IDFC First Bank, Indian Oil, India Cements, United India, Ramaiah University, Experimenta Science Center GD Naidu Charity, Finolex Pipes, LIC, BPCL, Samsonite, Big Basket, Nippon Paint, CRICHQ, Wordswork, NewsX and Casagrand.
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