Policewomen participate in the 100m hurdles final at the Jharkhand State Police Sports Meet at Birsa Munda Athletics Stadium in Ranchi on Thursday. (Prashant Mitra)
It takes a minute to swap camouflage pants for a tee and shorts. But making the switch from patrolling in a Naxalite-hit Lohardaga forest to stopping rival goals in a football match in Ranchi is a tall task.
Ronaldo or Ronaldinho would have balked, but not Jharkhand police constable James Aind. The man who till Sunday was tracking Naxalites in Peshrar forest under Kisko police station of Lohardaga along with the CRPF, on Thursday played some magnificent football for South Chotanagpur team at the ongoing Jharkhand State Police Sports Meet.
Aind’s team routed rivals Koylanchal Range, 6-0. Aind, as his team’s defender, did not allow his rivals to net a single goal at the Birsa Munda Football Stadium.
Stealthy tracking in a forest and the hurly-burly of football need completely different mindsets. But constables like Aind don’t have the luxury of thinking. They just do what they have to.
So, on October 8, when Aind was asked to join his team for the state police sports meet from October 9 to 13 in the capital, he calmly left the Peshrar camp for police lines at Lohardaga and then reached Ranchi. “I didn’t get even a day for practice,” he said.
He’s happy with the adulation but the footballer in him knows he would have played better with some practice. “Ideally, two months before the tourney,” he laughed, knowing that was well nigh impossible.
“I got tired. Getting into a player’s groove takes some time. But I had to be cent per cent alert in front of the goalpost. Practice, however, for us is a luxury. Our duty is priority,” he said.
Aind is not the only one. His colleague Rajesh Linda cut short his long-range patrolling in Lohardaga forests with assault teams of the state, Jharkhand Jaguar and CRPF for the police games.
“One moment we are chasing rebels, the next moment we are chasing the ball,” he quipped.
Constable Aicho Lakra, a footballer of Dumka Range, shared the same feeling. “I came home on leave after a strenuous law and order duty at Dumka when I was told to rush to Ranchi for the sports meet. Practice, what’s that?” he asked.
Mohammed Jasim Khan, a coach trained at National Institute of Sports, Patiala, who mentors footballers in uniform, said if players were released for practice at least a month before any big-ticket match, they would have “excelled in technical and tactical moves”.
“Their confidence is low which hits their performance hard. If given an opportunity to play, sportspersons present in the police department can do miracles,” he said.
Police spokesperson and IG (operations) S.N. Pradhan admitted that a proper system had not evolved to give sportsmen within the department time to practice before any match. “The matter has been discussed. We hope to have a system where sportsperson in the police department can judiciously use time to practice and reach their full potential to excel,” he said.