Vikash Sharma

“Every player wants to spend their life on the field and for the game. But today, it is not possible for me. Things have become so harsh that I want to erase the memories that I represented my country.” These statements speak a lot about the tough phase of Akash Patnaik, a handball player from Puri who represented India at the international level in the past.

Life of Akash has come crashing down after his father’s death. Now he has been forced to take up a job as a night watchman in the pilgrim town.

Earlier, accolades had started pouring in for Akash after he returned from Uzbekistan after winning silver in 2019. But things have changed since then. Akash is now posted as a night watchman at Puri Sanskrit University. He has taken up the job to meet the requirements of his family.

Staring at an uncertain future, Akash often gets demotivated. But the odds have not stopped him from continuing his hard work.

After completing his duties as a night watchman, Akash takes out time for regular practice during the daytime. It is only government assistance that can bring relief to Akash and help him tide over the tough situation he had been facing for a long time.

“I pray to God that no athlete meets fate like me,” said Akash who is hopeful that things will change soon and he can fully concentrate on the game.

Not only Akash, but several athletes in Odisha are also forced to take up odd jobs to make ends meet even though the state government claims to have been pumping in crores of rupees and trying to come up with world-class infrastructure and facilities.

Puri District Sports Officer, Chandan Sahu said, “We had felicitated Akash Patnaik for his superb performance. So far, we have not received any written grievances from him whether he needs ground or other facilities. We will extend such facilities accordingly.”

(Reported by Pradip Mohanty)