The New Year or Vishu in Kerala is a time for celebration, festive re-unions, and good food. It is also a time for resurgence of native sports in street corners and even courtyards of homes.
Not many however, know that the high-energy, hugely-popular indigenous sports, such as Vadamvali and Vallamkali forbid players from smoking as a part of their fitness regimen.
Vadamvali or tug-of-war involves seven to nine member teams showcasing their strength by pulling their opponents across the central line.
Sudhir Sankar Cheppad, Alappuzha, Chief Referee, Kerala Vadamvali Association said, “We pick our players after a selection process involving checks for their vital signs, including heart rate and breathing rate, along with endurance. Since smoking leads to decreased lung capacity and increases heart rate, we stop our players from taking in these carcinogenic fumes.”
“Advice against smoking is also part of our efforts to instil healthy practices among our youngsters and help them excel in whichever area they choose to,” added Sudhir Sankar. The Association, in the interest of its players’ health, also prohibits spectators from smoking at the sporting sites.
Professional Vadamvali competitions carry attractive prizes of up to Rs 50,000 and are generally held on weekends. The winning players are also celebrated as community sporting heroes.
Total abstinence from smoking is an essential precondition for rowers in the snake boat race or Vallamkali in Alappuzha. A major tourism event, the stamina and fitness quotient required for this sport is tremendous.
Jameskutty Jacob, winning captain of 2015 and 2016 Nehru Trophy Boat Race said, “The event which lasts for less than 5 minutes requires total contribution of physical and mental energies by the rowers. To ensure stamina levels, we strictly prohibit our players from smoking, right from t
he period of trials.”
“Youngsters who aspire for success in a sporting career would do well to not initiate smoking,” Jameskutty noted.
Over 4,000 sportspersons assemble to make the Nehru Trophy Boat Race the only sporting event in the world in which teams of 100 or more members participate. The first three winners in the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, held in the Punnamada Lake of Alappuzha, can win cash prizes of up to Rs 7 lakhs.
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