Saturday, 16 August 2014

American dreams for this team from Hyderabad

HYDERABAD: Hyderabad Sunrisers may have barely given you a moment to cheer, but there's another city team that is certainly worthy of your attention — meet the Hyderabad Skykings. The city's very own American football team.

After playing American football in India in February, they are all set to match their skills against professional footballers in the US. The team of 10 players, aged between 22 and 27, is now heading to the US to play against Oklahoma City Thunder, and are certainly kicked about it.

Sai Santhosh Sandri, the 22-year-old BCom student and the youngest player of the team, says, "It is a great opportunity for our future. Since Thunders is a professional team, we will learn a lot of new things there and get a global experience. There's an India vs Pakistan match lined up in August, so this experience might enhance our chances of getting selected in the team."

Naveen Kumar Kunku credits the growing popularity of contact sports in India for his interest in the game. A former rugby player, who started playing American Football three years ago, Naveen says, "More and more people are ditching cricket to be part of other sports like boxing, rugby and others. Since this game is very similar to rugby -the only difference being you can go for forward passes in rugby — I moved into this." For many, the game's aggression is a big draw. Sudheer Yadav Boini says, "This game is all about aggression that is what I love about it. All we need to play this game well is agility, strength and speed." But since the game is full of aggression, injuries are frequent.

"Yes, but that is common in all other games too. Even Sachin Tendulkar and Sania Mirza get hurt. So, there's no need to stop yourself from playing due to fear of injuries. We have protective gear like helmets, shoulder pads and other equipments," says Sudheer.

There are also precautions taken to minimise chances of injuries.

Ashok Pentatiah Kunku, physiotherapist of the team says, "It is a high-octane sport so players have to practice a lot. Muscle soreness and spasms are quite common. So, we make sure players warm up properly before and after the game as it helps in preventing injuries."

Though the game is still in its nascent stage, it is certainly gaining popularity. Coach Praveen Kumar Reddy Chintala says, "The game is getting popular in Hyderabad as well as India. When we last played at Gachibowli stadium in February this year, we got a huge crowd for the game. So, the fan base is expanding." And if you aspire to be part of the team, there's a chance for you too.

"Every month, we do a selection for freshers in different categories depending on their skills. We prefer people who have some sports background like handball throwers, runners, wrestlers, and more," says Praveen. Skykings,American football in India



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