India is a country that has a long history of identification with sports. Sports means fitness, sincerity, focus and on a national level “patriotism”. But in hindsight, if we decrypt the meaning of sports, it also means representation. Sports also stands for identity.

Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) sits at the sports capital of India i.e. Odisha. The institute supports 27,000 students from grades one through graduate training along with vocational training, skill development, academia, sports and culture. The priority given to sports in KISS is unmatchable and the result is its epic testimonial.

Over five thousand athletes have played in the national and international tournaments ranging over 100 different sports giving the mileage that sports desperately needs in this country. This includes the participation in Commonwealth and Asian games but when it comes to rugby then KISS is the โ€˜akaโ€™ of rugby. KISS has been an undisputed rugby hub and poor tribal children have travelled across the world, won tournaments for the country and our state and became the voice of Odisha all the while. KISS’s upliftment through Rugby and several other sports like Judo, archery, hockey, volleyball, athletics and the like, is giving tribal communities hope, representation and letting them out of poverty. In a country where women are subjected to domestic work, my vision for a change has been established by giving boys and girls equal opportunity in both academia and sports, for free. Needless to say, 60% of the students in the institution are girls.

Rugby is a sport that requires a lot of strength both mental and physical. It is a game for the smart and the furious. When it comes to the students of KISS they are genetically gifted with the mental and physical endurance, which is required to play and win the sport. In 2005, we brought in state-level coaches to train our students and then promoted to national level coaches for further improvement. When the time was correct international coaches were brought in for months of rigorous training, finally, players aged 12 to 13 from KISS represented the Indian team to play the international rugby world cup at London. I was extremely proud of the students who defeated 10 countries to win the rugby world cup and brought flourishing results for Odisha at the world map of sports. Bhagyalaxmi Barik was the first one to represent us in the Indian rugby team and cut to 15 years, from Pramod Khanna to Rahul Bose, everyone has acknowledged our contribution to this game.

 

“Wherever sports can improve societies, it is fantastic. Even after representing India for so many years, we can see that Rugby is played mostly by Adivasis. We are not only talking about grassroots. Both our men and women’s national teams have 60% or more of their representations from the Adivasi communities. If you don’t see the social transformation here, then what do you see?” says acclaimed actor and veteran Rugby player Rahul Bose. In fact, Rahul Bose has personally visited KISS, played with the rugby teams and praised my efforts for change.

 

 

Rugby has been the one game that has changed the diaspora of the indigenous community in sports. After years of representing indigenous people, Rugby now represents empowerment. A flow of empowerment that ignited at KISS. The change has been so evident that Naveen Patnaik the CM of Odisha has taken to twitter and other social media apps to praise the culture of Rugby that KISS has created and established. The force has been such that KISS is now officially co-sponsoring Rugby India and setting up camps for more children to play and represent. The Odisha Government too will be collaborating with us in this mission. The aim now is to get the Indian Rugby Team to the 2028 Olympics. This will be a historic moment for the state and the country. And yes, we are aiming to make history happen.