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UP’s Tanzeela Khan skates against time to play big at World Roller Games. Money stands in way

Aligarh’s Tanzeela Khan isn't the only athlete to turn to crowdfunding platforms. But can she manage Rs 2.6 lakh to pay Roller Skating Federation of India before time runs out?

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Tanzeela Khan has less than 24 hours to come up with Rs 2.65 lakh to represent India in the World Roller Games 2022 in Argentina. Coming from a modest family in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, she is crowdfunding her dream.

So far, 61 people have contributed, with the help of Milaap, a little over Rs 2 lakh on the crowdfunding platform, a growing trend among athletes in recent years.

But the clock is ticking. She has to pay the Roller Skating Federation of India Rs 2.65 lakh by July 15 if she wants to be part of the national roller derby team that will fly to Argentina in October for the World Roller Games.

“Right now, there is no support from my university in the form of scholarships,” said Khan, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). “My national coach [Sandip Bhatnagar] told me to enquire about government sponsorships which are quite common in the country, but the UP government cannot sponsor me right now.” 

Though the Roller Skating Federation of India is recognised as a formal body, it cannot get government funding because until two weeks ago, roller skating was not enlisted in the national games list. The reason? The International Olympic Committee didn’t recognise it. “However, it has now been added to the national games list and the Khelo India Mission, after skateboarding was added as a game in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” said Bhatnagar.

This is why players need to arrange their own money. “Tanzeela is a key player. Her father is a private bus stand clerk and the family cannot pay the required amount themselves. But I’m happy to say that most of the girls in the 15-member strong team have been able to get sponsors,” Bhatnagar added.

Khan is determined not to let the lack of personal funds derail her shot at the world tournament.

Also read: Why dozens of Indian students are turning to crowdfunding platforms to fund education dream

A new medium of funding

In cricket-crazy India, she’s not the only athlete to turn to crowdfunding platforms. Coaches and athletes are increasingly resorting to novel means of collecting funds, and online crowdfunding has emerged as a popular resource, one that even NGOs are tapping into. These NGOs often train children from the economically weaker section, and some of them even offer tax benefits.

Well-known athlete P.T. Usha, who was awarded the Padma Shri and the Arjuna Award and has won over 100 national and international medals, started the Usha School of Athletics in 2002, where she trains Indian girls for international track and field events. The residential school, which houses students mostly from underprivileged backgrounds, has a crowdfunding page on Milaap.

Individual players, who are hindered by their circumstances and fail to get adequate support from authorities, too have found donors on crowdfunding sites. “I have some family issues right now, and my father is a heart patient, due to which finance is a problem,” said Tanzeela, who has sought Rs 3 lakh on Milaap. She’ll use the additional Rs 35,000 for travel and other related expenses she will incur prior to the tournament.

Also read: Why Kanhaiya Kumar can successfully crowdfund Rs 70 lakh but Bihar’s Raju Yadav struggles

Skating through life

Though the roller-skating contact sport is played mainly in the United States, it began gaining momentum in India four years ago, and has now become a formal sport represented by a national federation. It’s especially popular in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra but as with most lesser-known sports, funding is a problem.

Five members of the national team are from Aligarh Muslim University. The AMU’s skating coach Ali Akbar had only good words for all the players, and specifically Tanzeela Khan, whom he described as “dedicated and a hard worker”. He, too, stressed on the need for more funding.

Khan has excelled in sports from a young age. Her sports career started with track (running) after which she moved to swimming, where she represented Aligarh and won multiple medals at the district level.

She took to skating like a fish to water. “I represented UP in speed skating in India and won two bronze medals. UP coach Sandip Bhatnagar saw that I was good at speed skating and encouraged me to try out for the state roller derby team,” she said. Incidentally, Bhatnagar was selected by the Roller Skating Federation of India to coach the Indian team.

Tanzeela Khan has captained the UP roller derby team for the past three years. Under her, the team has excelled in national tournaments winning bronze, gold, and earlier this month a silver medal. She earned a spot in the national team.

It was her older sister’s idea to seek donations from strangers. Khan remains positive, her focus trained on the game. “If anyone is happy to help me by donating some money, it would take me closer to my goal. I have my family and God’s support, and even if the crowdfunding does not work out, we will find a way to gather the money through loans and other means,” she said.

Khan is just a breath away from her goal. “I got the draft of all the players who were going for the World Roller Games, just yesterday, and her name was there,” Bhatnagar said.

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