By Aditya Nag

Ball sport in India is rising at a tremendous pace with new clubs and leagues taking over the scene in India. Football and other ball sports like Rugby and Volleyball are finally finding credence in a cricket obsessed nation. Even during prime time, thanks to the private initiatives, various ball based sports are finding more takers with a viewership that is on the rise. Women participation at a competitive level is growing by leaps and bounds. With the world becoming a global village, the Indian sports scene is also becoming more diverse with new formats and forms of games being introduced which provide multiple choices to players beyond cricket. One such game is a volley ball derived sport called Shooting Ball. Coffee Bytes caught up with one such rising star, an avid footballer and the captain of the Odisha Shooting Ball team Champabati Maharana. She has represented Odisha twice in the National Shooting Ball Championship. Read on to know more about this Shooting Star from Odisha who is breaking the wheel of stereotypes.

Tell us about yourself Champa. How did it all begin, as in your interest in sports?

Hi, I belong to Gobindpur village near Jatani. I have been playing ball based sports since my school days. As cricket was an expensive sport, I pursued football and volleyball which was more affordable and interesting to play. I have represented my institution- Jatani College in many inter-district matches thanks to the guidance of my coach Mr.Kedar Baral.

You were an avid footballer, why did you choose to participate in Shooting Ball?

Well, I along with others in college used to play all types of ball sports and the most accessible sports for a person in a village are football and volleyball. All other games were expensive and it was even difficult for me to get a decent pair of shoes or a kit for football. You see I belong to a farmers family and it is very difficult for my family to support me in sports. On seeing this my coach Kedar Baral guided me to pursue Shooting Ball since there was ample scope for me to gain scholarship and support. To my luck I took it like a duck to water.

Please tell us about your journey till date?

Life was very difficult for me before I started earning. Pursuing sports and coming from an economically backward family it has its own struggle. For practice I used to cycle 15 kilometres every day and at times I had to walk too. Thankfully my coach Kedar Sir never charged me any fee for the practice sessions instead he would support me by providing the ball and other basic equipments like jerseys and shoes so that my practice went unhindered. Whenever there was any requirement my father and my coach would stand by me, their support kept my spirits up and kept me going.

Do your parents and relatives support your interest and passion in sports?

My father(Bhagirathi Maharana) and my elder brother both are farmers and my mother (Kuntala Maharana) is a housewife. I faced a lot of financial difficulties to pursue sports. They have always been supportive of my choice and interest in shooting ball and encouraged me to play. You see in our entire village literacy levels are quite low and women even till date have a narrowly defined view of the world. But my parents never wanted me to grow up in this kind of environment so they along with my coach were supportive, helpful and made me overcome my fear and inhibitions enabling me to pursue my career in Shooting Ball.

Grit, the raw endurance,
perseverance and passion
that keeps you going despite

Tell us about your coach? How has he helped you in achieving your goals?

My coach Kedar Baral , hails from Jatani and is a former national level football player. He has represented the state and many prestigious clubs in football. He is also an advisor to many clubs in the state. His pupils intrest is first rather than himself. He has imbibed discipline in me, looked into my nutrition and diet. He guided me in my workouts and taught me how to avoid injuries during a match. Such guidance is required when one is aiming for the nationals.

You have represented Odisha twice as captain of the women’s shooting ball team. Tell us more about your experience?

Shooting ball is a growing game in India and women’s shooting ball has been gaining huge popularity in Maharashtra, Delhi and Punjab. I have represented Odisha as captain twice in 2016 in Haryana and 2017 National Shooting Ball Championship held in Japiur, Rajasthan. This experience boosted my confidence and also gave me and my team well needed experience.

What are your hobbies and interests Champa?

I love to play cricket and football apart from that I like riding motorcycles. I find motorcycling as a very liberating experience. I also regularly donate blood and encourage people in my village to donate blood.

Has Shooting Ball affected your studies?

No, it has not but sadly since my parents weren’t able to afford my costs for studies I had to quit mid way while I was pursuing my History Honours in Jatani College. Thanks to the intervention of my coach and the Royal Enfield dealer at Patrapada I am now able to restart my studies and finish my degree..

How did Royal Enfield help you out?

Well it was by chance. One of the well wishers is ‘Banka Nana’ (Bankanidhi Sahoo) who upon seeing my financial plight spoke to the Royal Enfield dealer at Patrapada (Rudra Narayan Samantaray). Scope of a woman in a motorcycle or vehicle dealership is usually limited to the front desk. But he took an unorthodox approach after hearing my story. He asked me to join as an apprentice mechanic. I immediately took up this challenge, working under my mentor ‘Banka Nana’ whose profound knowledge in motorcycle mechanism and vehicle dynamics helped me further. And I can proudly state that today I am a bread earner not just for my passion for sports but also for my family.

How is the environment in your workplace? I mean men aren’t accustomed to seeing a women working with bolts, lug nuts and cam shafts?.

Yes that’s true, people have this perception that women cannot understand about vehicles. But since day one I have been treated as any other apprentice mechanic. I started out on the workshop floor understanding the nuances of motorcycle engines. I have been trained by Royal Enfield staff and have never faced any sort of gender discrimination rather I have been treated as a little sister under the experienced trainers.

Do you think there is a future in Shooting Ball for women in Odisha?

Yes the game is just starting out now in Odisha, but it’s a game which is destined to become big in India. One can pursue this game and even apply for government jobs or the armed forces. Right now I am preparing for the entrance exams of the armed forces. The state government encourages many like me to take it up as a full-time career.

What steps do you think are needed to make Odia women participate more in Shooting Ball?

Well the state government is doing its bit to popularise the sport in Odisha but we also need private support which is near to negligible in Odisha. Many don’t even know about the sport. When we had been to Delhi we saw the support the corporates gave their state for the advancement of Shooting Ball. We definitely need support from the corporates in Odisha to bolster the spirit of the people involved in the game.

At the young age of 22 you have accomplished a lot. What’s in store for the future?

Ah, no I haven’t achieved much yet. Only recently I had participated in an adventure camp where I learnt hill climbing, rock climbing and also did para-gliding. I have realised that we Odia women are as capable and able as anyone. We need to step out and break the stereotypes that surround us and people need to treat us as equals. Gender discrimination is the worst thing that can happen to talent. In the future I would firstly like to finish my studies and then accomplish my dream to make Odisha the Champion in Shooting Ball. You must believe in yourself and give 100% effort then only one can succeed. We at Coffee Bytes hope for the best for Champabati Maharana. She is the embodiment of true grit, Who is making our state proud and will continue to do so. We wish her all the best in the years to come.

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