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Agneepath 2024 : The Obituary

I had to wait until my third year at Ashoka for my first experience of Agneepath. For the two years prior, I had to survive on crumbs of what Agneepath had been and what Agneepath could be, little inklings of what a massive sports fest was supposed to be, experienced through the party mood at ABA and APL. After two-and-a-bit years of writing for Edict Sports, finally getting to bite into something substantial when Agneepath 5.0 came around felt cathartic, especially coming from someone who had been itching for Ashokan sports to have its moment in the sun, and to be present for it. 

Agneepath 2023 was, in many ways, a magical and moving experience. After two long years, to see our campus play host to hundreds of student athletes, and watch as the Ashokan student body showed up to root for our teams, made the wait feel worth it. This is what sports at Ashoka was meant to be, and we finally got there. It helped that Agneepath 5.0 was a positive experience on several different fronts: Ashoka’s teams did well across the board, including gold medals in tennis and women’s football, with the weekend culminating in the men’s football team’s electrifying come-from-behind win against finals opponents Sri Venkateswara College in front of a boisterous home crowd. 

It’s tough to describe the magic that seemed to overhang campus that weekend: many athletes who came away with medals attribute their success to the environment of support provided by the student body, something visiting colleges weren’t attuned to. Both football finals had a percussion section and chants led by the spectators using the slopes as their stands, and the tennis court became a true bullring as Ashoka’s most prolific outfit attracted a horde of fans rattling the cages and howling for every point we won. While our teams fell short in both the women’s basketball finals and women’s volleyball finals, it won’t soon be forgotten how those two games took place simultaneously on the Sunken Field. Side-by-side, with the support spurring on both sets of players — the passion which puts Agneepath ahead of the pack, presented in a nutshell.

For our team at Edict Sports, all the work put in over the semester prior helped us handle the reporting for an event at a scale we hadn’t experienced before. Our live coverage on Twitter was a hugely fulfilling success on a personal level,  but also for followers across campus, as our team took pride in the effort of balancing the reporting of several different events simultaneously (my Fitbit and the cramps in my feet would serve as proof of that effort.) There was a certain thrill to acting on our feet and shuttling between different parts of campus, acting almost symbiotically with the Agneepath OC to provide a seamless live thread as well as an archival record of the event.

It prompted ambitions for bigger and better things from us ahead of Agneepath 6.0, with hopes of expanding into multimedia end-of-day panels and recaps. We endeavoured towards broadcasting an even more polished and professional product, in collaboration with Agneepath’s in-house marketing and media teams. Our team was bigger than ever, with almost 20 members of staff and a designated multimedia section, allowing us to broaden the scope of our project as we looked to create a truer bond between the Ashokan campus and its sporting subculture. With that always being the overarching goal of what we try to do at Edict Sports, improved reporting during this year’s ABA and Batch Championships allowed us to harbour hopes of pulling off something even more special during Agneepath season. 

There was a sense too, this year, that Edict Sports had crafted for itself a place in Ashoka’s sporting culture. Throughout ABA, RSL, and the Batch Championships, we found athletes, owners, and bystanders asking our reporters about our coverage. Some athletes even admitted to reading the threads on Twitter every night before bed! Agneepath 6.0 was supposed to be the place where it all came together, where we were all on the same team. 

It’s the reason that it was so deflating and heartbreaking when this year’s Agneepath got cancelled at the last minute: to be within touching distance of that feeling once again, building the excitement of putting work into expanding our craft, and instead having to leave after four years of Ashoka with only one weekend of that experience. 

The time of death was called on Valentine’s Day, only two days before the event was scheduled to begin. To have the rug pulled out from beneath our feet was a punch in the gut for many, from the organising committee which had been working tirelessly for several months to get everything in order for the biggest Agneepath so far, to the athletes for whom this was a landmark moment in the midst of a packed tournament schedule. The campus would have played host to some of the biggest names in the Northern Indian collegiate sports circuit. A month later, any remaining strands of hope that the fest might get pushed to later in the semester have been quietly shelved away. Heartbreakingly, that’s that.

The impact would certainly be felt hardest by final-year students, for whom this cancellation means that they only got one shot at making a tilt for a trophy on Ashokan grounds, wearing Ashokan colours. Some, like former Ashoka Women’s Football Team captain Dhrthi Bhat, were successful, but still felt hard-done by the vacuum Agneepath’s absence leaves behind. “Last spring, we played five tournaments throughout the semester, and in this semester we are barely getting two or three,” she commented. “The hope was that this year, at least, we will have our own tournament that we can host.

Others, like current men’s basketball captain Akhil Madhavan, were left wanting more, with the knowledge that what his team amongst many others had been building towards had been stripped away. “It was a big blow not only to me but for the entire team. Playing a sport in front of people cheering for you is an adrenaline rush like nothing else,” he told us. “It’s something we always train twice as hard for, to make sure we don’t let people down. Losing the chance to do that a final time will always be something I regret.”

For my fellow ASPs and the third-year students who won’t be returning for theirs, the memories of Agneepath 2023 will certainly remain special due to its uniqueness in our college experience. A one-of-one instance of sports coming to the fore on campus, and allowing us to bask in an atmosphere that would leave us reaching for something similar once Agneepath 2024 had its plug pulled. At the moment, even with APL on the horizon and the teams contending with tournaments that lie ahead for the rest of the spring, the emptiness of that mid-February weekend continues to sting. 

There’s no “Hey, there’s always next year,” to tide us over like there is for our more fortunate younger colleagues. There’s no way to win back the hours and days lost attempting to create a spectacular event, and also very little time to ruminate on regrets and hypotheticals. Agneepath will be back next year, and by merit of its own promise, will certainly be a pageant of sports and campus coming together to celebrate. Until then, Edict Sports bids a tearful farewell to the Agneepath that never was. 


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