Arif Sir's dedication pays off

National badminton coach SM Arif says talent is abundant in India, only need is to provide the right support.

updated: February 25, 2007 08:37 IST
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National badminton coach SM Arif was awarded the Dronacharya award this year. Arif Sir who coached All-England champion P Gopichand since the age of 11, says talent is abundant in India. The need is to provide the right support to ensure it does not wither away. Dronacharya award winner, S M Arif's eyes don't miss a thing. He points out any error made by his wards while training early morning at Hyderabad's Indoor stadium. Arif Sir, as he is fondly called, is the National badminton coach, the man in-charge of helping India take on the might of China and Indonesia, the badminton superpowers of the world. "There is abundance of talent. The best talent in the world. Only the difficulty what I face is, the player should be able to get involved. In badminton, another trouble is the cost of the shuttle. It is a tremendously costly game. Even in training, I find that is the difficulty. We are not able to give adequate attack and defence practice because it consumes a lot of shuttle-cocks," rues Arif. Interestingly, cricket and football were Arif Sir's childhood passions, but he stopped playing cricket because his team would send him very low down the batting order! His decision to shift to badminton certainly has been the game's gain. Arif Sir's most illustrious student, all-England Badminton champ Pullela Gopichand came to him as a 11-year-old. Gopi's spectacular success has drawn attention to his teacher's dedication as well. "When Gopi had won, that has given people belief that we can do that if we really work hard. I think if people start emulating what Gopi is doing, sacrificing so many things and totally focused, with determination, in spite of having a big injury, I am sure our players can definitely make it," feels Arif. It was perhaps then appropriate that both Gopi and his Arif Sir received their Rajiv Khel Ratna award and Dronacharya award respectively, on the same day last month. "Things like discipline and dedication to the sport, that is what I have learnt from him. The initial years of growing up, I think those were the main factors which really, even in my later years, have been the foundation stone for what I am today," said Gopichand, Arif's star disciple. Arif Sir is now looking ahead to the 2002 Asian Games where he says Indian badminton should make a mark and he certainly is working overtime to ensure it does.