Dronacharya awardee Bawa Patel overwhelmed and anxious ahead of trip to New Delhi

Merzban 'Bawa' Patel, the Mumbai youth hockey coach, nurtured the talents of many Olympians and World Cuppers is anxious on his only third trip to the national capital where he will receive the Dronacharya Lifetime Achievement Award.

The first two trips to New Delhi for Bawa were spent through long discussions about hockey.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Merzban Patel’s third trip of his life to New Delhi, for the August 29 National Sports Day awards ceremony, gives him the most anxiety. Two earlier visits to the national capital happened in 2001 and 2012. Patel, the coach who nurtured many hockey Olympians and World Cuppers from Mumbai, accompanied a young goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza 19 years ago for a trial conducted by Air India academy at the National stadium.

Bawa, as he is commonly known, travelled again in 2012 to watch Yuvraj Walmiki at the Olympics Qualifying tournament.

The second trip lasted eight days when Yuvraj was injured and in recovery phase with the India team.

In a reversal of sorts, Bawa, 68, will be the focus of attention on the third Delhi visit, when a roomful of people and other awardees will watch him receive the Dronacharya Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bawa admits he faced no such anxiety on his first two visits. On the first trip, he refused a room for himself and stayed with with two of his young wards at the National stadium accommodation during the 2001 academy trials.

“I chose to stay with Adrian [D' Souza] and two other kids from Bombay Republicans, because leaving them on their own to spent a night in a new city was not right,” he remembered.

After being shortlisted for the academy, D'souza stayed back to train under coach A. K. Bansal.

The second Delhi visit in 2012 saw him and others share a room in the vicinity of the National Stadium, to watch the action as a hockey fan. Unfortunately, Yuvraj did not feature in the tournament as he was recovering from an injury.

“Yuvraj stayed with the national team. I remember Sandeep Singh’s drag flick goals for India,” Bawa said.

READ | Merzban 'Bawa' Patel - the man who shaped hockey talent in Mumbai

Bawa slipped under the radar during earlier visits. Now in 2019, an inspiring life story put the Mumbai hockey mentor in national focus. Questions swirling in his mind range from when will the official communication reach him, whether he should wear dentures and go clean shaven to Delhi and the hotel food effects on his chronic acidity.

“I am waiting for something in writing or a phone call before planning for the trip,” he said, even as congratulatory messages poured in.

Bawa travelled from Mumbai to Delhi and back by train both times, resulting in long hours of hockey discussion.

“The academy trials gave us idea of goalkeeping drills. India played well in the Olympic qualifier.”

The two boys from Mumbai went on to play for India. D'Souza made his Olympic debut in 2004 Athens Games. Yuvraj got into the 2014 World Cup squad at The Hague, making their mentor proud. Now is the time for them to applaud as Bawa gets ready for another visit to the capital.