3/18/2018 8:06:48 PM (GMT+3)

Para football attracted me more than TT, says Bengal's first national champion Arup Basak

Para football attracted me more than TT, says Bengal

KOLKATA, India: Bengal’s first national table tennis champion Arup Basak had no liking for the sport, but like any of his fellow Bengalis during his time, football was his sera kela (favourite sport).

“I used to play para (local) football a lot at Narkeldanga, where I was born and grew up to become a national champion,” said Arup in an exclusive interview to www.khelupdates.com from Mumbai, which is his second home now. 

Narkeldanga, which lies between the traditional North and opulent Salt Lake on the East, is a middle-class colony where football was the be-all and end-all sport for the youth in the 70s and 80s.

But surprisingly as a child, the ping pong game never attracted him. It was a big no-no for Arup, who spent most of his time in bikeler (afternoon) para football with friends.

But Arup’s elder sister Chaitali wanted him to become a TT player.

“She was a member at Narkeldanga Sadharan Samity Pathagar, where Botonda (Jayanta Pushilal) introduced TT camp in 1983. Didi felt that I should join the camp,” said Arup, who’s now one of the coaches Maharashtra United in Ultimate Table Tennis League (UTT).

“Initially, I was not happy at all. I did not like indoor sports. My passion was football. But I fell in love with the sport due to Botonda. Ami onar contribution bhulbo na (I won’t forget his contribution),” added Arup.

While Arup joined Pushilal’s coaching centre, he didn’t quit football. 

“I never gave up para football though I used to be regular at the TT trainings,” he said.

"Football helped me a lot to remain fit and improve movements around the table,” recalled the 45-year-old, who defeated Sunder Raman in the senior men’s final at Netaji Subhash Indoor Stadium in 1994.

Arup, who was a national junior champion in 1988 and 1989, had to wait for five more years to win the senior title.

“The turning point of my career came when I left Railways and joined Dena Bank which had Kamlesh Mehta as one of the stars during that era,” said Arup. “Kamlesh was a great motivator and guided me a lot on how to become a good player without exerting too much.”

Today as a Maharashtra United coach in UTT, Arup focuses on the next generation of paddlers.

“Currently I’m working with the world-renowned Ferenc Karsai in the team, but somewhere I strongly feel that I had learnt some of the modern techniques from Botonda when I was a player. I think, he was ahead of his time,” he added.