With a towel wrapped around his neck, Birju Sah does the best he can do as a coach while seconding the boxers he accompanies from Jharkhand in the National boxing championships at the Army Sports Institute, here.
Sah, who had landed bronze medals in 1993 Asian Junior Championships and 1994 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in light-flyweight, is hardly a recognisable face.
Without an Arjuna or Dhyan Chand award, the 44-year-old, who serves as a security guard with a private firm in Jamshedpur, is a forgettable figure in the National boxing scene.
“Nobody cared about me. Neither our state association nor the federation. If not Arjuna, they could have recommended my name for Dhyan Chand award. The application has gone a few times, but who cares,” a dejected Sah told Sportstar.
Sah – a four-time National champion, a former World number seven and the winner of many international medals – was a product of the Jamshedpur-based Tata Boxing Centre, which produced many top pugilists, including Olympians Diwakar Prasad and Anthresh Lakra, Jaipal Singh, Raj Kumar Sangwan, Z.B. Jollison, John William and Mishal Lakra, under the able guidance of Ernest Lakra.
With a smile on his face, Sah looked back at the 1990s and 2000s when Jamshedpur also witnessed the emergence of some talented woman boxers, such as Aruna Mishra and Laxmi Padiya.
“Lakra baba trained us at TBC, boxers from other areas used to come and we used to get tours to different tournaments across the country.”
At a time when the Tata centre has lost its verve and SAI centre is yet to make an impact, Sah has joined hands with his guru and Anthresh's father Ernest, now retired from the Tata job, to train 50-60 trainees at their centre – Birsa Boys Club (BBC) – for free.
“No one pays attention to the boxers. We came on our own (to the National championships), we were told the tickets would be reimbursed. There was no kit, no camp, nothing.”
However, Sah hopes some young Jharkhand boxers, who have done well in Khelo India and other national platforms, will make the state proud again.
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