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Down But Not Out: How Ashoka’s Sports Teams Combatted the Coronavirus

Dhruvan Nair, Undergraduate 2021

It’s the end of February 2020. The least of Ashokans’ worries was doing well in their midsems and being able to catch a shuttle to Jahangirpuri to start their journey back home. Then came the Coronavirus which brought life on campus to a standstill. Amongst the numerous disruptions it brought to Ashoka, the virus also obstructed any further progress for the stellar seasons that its sports teams were enjoying. A prime example of this is the campaigns of the Women’s Football team and the Ultimate team.

The 2019-20 season brought incredible success to the Ashokan Women’s Football team. With the influx of the new Undergraduate batch came new recruits and this revitalized side kicked off their campaign on home turf, at Agneepath. They made it to the final, after thrashing the likes of St. Stephen’s College, IIIT-D as well as local rivals, O.P Jindal Global University by a whopping aggregate of 18-1. Despite tasting defeat in the final, the team showed great character in turning around their fortunes by emerging victorious on multiple occasions such as the Triquetra Sports Fest (hosted jointly by IIITD, DTU & NSIT), the Adidas Unfair Tournament, Breeze ‘20 (hosted by Shiv Nadar University) and finally, Hobnob ’20 (hosted by Jesus and Mary College, DU). This year’s victory at Breeze ‘20, was the third consecutive year that the Women’s Football Team tasted success there. Up next in the calendar was Magnus, hosted by Jindal as well as the much-anticipated tournament at BITS Pilani, Goa.

Ashoka Women’s Football Team

“We knew the level of football that we’ll see there but we were also super enthusiastic about playing and defeating them with our own style of football. But then this Covid situation happened. We were told that both these tournaments got cancelled and were disappointed beyond measure”, shared Chitrali, a member of the team. “Despite being stranded in our respective homes we were all still in touch with each other. In a few days, we started having Zoom sessions to help each other during these extremely irritating times. We would send memes on our group, talk about workout sessions, etc. Talking to these girls motivated me a lot. At the end of the day, we never really feel apart, we’re all in this together and are positive about the future.”

Apart from the Women’s Football team, Ashoka’s Ultimate team enjoyed a successful run this year as well. The team’s run included a Single Gender Regional held in Surat as well as two sectionals, one hosted by St. Stephens College and the other by Motilal Nehru School of Sports (MNSS). Ashoka emerged Division 2 champions in the Regionals and finished 4th in spirit rankings across all divisions. However, the main tournament of the season was yet to be played. This was the National College Ultimate Championship (NCUC) in Ahmedabad. To arrive in good form, the team also played a few friendly fixtures with universities such as St. Stephens and other Ultimate clubs such as Straw Dogs in Sweaters, an experienced side in the National Club Championship.

Ashoka Ultimate Frisbee Team

“We were putting in a lot of fitness and skill development sessions to prepare for the NCUC and the whole team stayed back on campus during the midterm break to arrive sharp at the tournament”, explained Dhruva, a member of the Hammerheads team. “It was in the middle of the train journey that we got to know about the tournament being cancelled. For the next few hours, I don’t think it really hit anyone, it was all just surreal. It was evident that despite having the perfect mindset and giving everything for a whole semester, things didn’t pan out for us. But I think we aren’t all that sad now because we all went through this story together and were able to witness our growth together.”

Despite the unfortunate halt to their terrific campaigns, both sets of teams are finding ways to keep their connection with the sport alive. To battle the quarantine blues, the girls in red and white have started an Instagram page of their own (@ashokawomensfc), managed collectively by all the players, to share their stories. Both sets of teams also have countless Zoom sessions to facilitate a communal space for the team to regularly remain in touch . Such efforts go a long way in recreating the sense of joy that one experiences each time while stepping on to the pitch, be it through a clever nutmeg or landing that perfect pickup. It is the love for the sport that brings these players together which is the quintessence of team spirit, irrespective of the quarantine status. This is the fuel that drives both these teams to continue working now, aiming to come back stronger than before even during a global pandemic. It is only a matter of time before the green fields of the Ashokan campus welcome back their players, to step onto the pitch and begin again.

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