Majuli: After having represented India at various level for many years, Abhijeet Bhattacharya, former national volleyball captain, had joined Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) and was looking for ways to give back to the game he loved the most, in some way, when he had visited a village in Thelamara close to his hometown in Tezpur 12 years ago.
At the village, there were around 15 girls playing volleyball, which had encouraged Bhattacharya to take a step forward in building the spirit of the game in the village. He had given them a new ball and made a partial court. Soon parents of the children got involved and it turned into an anticipated activity where villagers came to watch and cheer the teams, and cook meals for all those gathered.
Bhattacharya had received partial funding from the ONGC and support from friends, with which he had built a sports hostel at Beseria near Tezpur. He had also formed an organisation called Rengoni Youth Sports Foundation.
A discussion with few former players led to the start of the Assam Volleyball Mission 100 in September last year with the objective of providing 100 volleyballs to teams in need across Assam.
The next step was to create 100 players who can represent the state and the country to play professionally but had to take a backseat due to COVID-19. In order to keep players motivated Bhattacharya had created a new module. It started with young players from three tea gardens which soon turned into the Brahmaputra Volley League with an aim of making Assam one of the best volleyball teams in the country.
While normal teams have six players per side, it was decided to keep team size at four players with players going from one village to another to play games- home and away format.
The under 16-year-old boys team of Upper Majuli, which is a part of the ongoing Brahmaputra Volleyball League (BVL), is going to face a team of Monomoy tea in Jorhat district.
"The game was to start at 11 am, but as the ferry carrying the team to Majuli reached late, we are having a delayed start. We hope to start with a win. Next month we will visit them for a game," said coach Saikia.
He further added, "The league has reignited passion for volleyball in our area. A lot of new players are coming out and they are being encouraged by their parents. Other villagers are also involved in preparing the ground, ensuring proper hospitality of visiting team etc."
Coach Saikia trains as many as 62 players although only four of his players are taking part in the league match. Upper Majuli is being sponsored by Krishna Hazarika Rao and Asawari Parmar, both international badminton players who had represented the country in several competitions.
At present, 50 teams- 33 boys and 17 girls, representing rural areas across Assam are taking part in the BVL, the brainchild of Abhijeet Bhattacharya.
However, Sunday had ended on a good note as coach Saikia's team were able to defeat the Monomoy tea estate team in two straight sets.
The 15-year-old captain of Upper Majuli team, Lakhiram Das, a student of class 10 had said, "The format is a bit challenging as four players have to cover the court instead of six. But we are enjoying the league. I have been playing volleyball for two years and want to take the game professionally."