Merzban Patel doesn’t remember the last time he had such a long break. The septuagenarian hockey coach has been busy grooming young talents.

Not an indoor person, the Dronacharya Awardee is having a hard time sitting at home, in Vile Parle, as the country is under a 21-day lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I am getting bored. I am not used to sitting at home, so I don’t know how to spend time. I don’t like watching television, so I read the newspapers and the health columns,” Patel, who is fondly known as Bawa in Mumbai’s hockey circles, told Sportstar on Wednesday.

Over the past four decades, Bawa has groomed a lot of Olympians and international players from Mumbai, and is now associated with the Children’s Academy School as hockey coach. Patel, whose monthly income is Rs 12, 500, did not receive his salary this month.

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“The school was shut, so there was no hockey. We can only get our salaries once the school reopens,” he said.

“I have some savings, so we are running the show with that. Some of my old students have helped me whenever required; they are always around,” the veteran coach said.


More than financial woes, Patel is concerned for his wards. “We all need to stay at home at this time. I have set a guideline for them, so that they can train well. But then, if this situation continues for two to three months, it will be difficult to manage,” he said.

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His old wards Merwyn Fernandes and Joachim Carvalho — two former India internationals — suggested that he offer online classes, and he obliged. “I showed the boys how to practice inside the house. But then, I don’t think they would be training seriously, and I can’t monitor every move,” he said.

“Many kids don’t even have enough space in the house to execute the drills. But at least, they should try and continue. I try to motivate them. What else can I do sitting at home?” Patel said.

He feels the lockdown is likely to be extended. “I can’t stay at home like this. The day they announced my name for the Dronacharya award, I was training kids at the MHA. So, it is very difficult to spend time…”

Patel is keeping calm by reading autobiographies. “As of today, I am doing fine. Kal kisko pata (who knows what happens tomorrow).”