In Mumbai, a battle to save the Andheri YMCA basketball court

A historical basketball court in Andheri, Mumbai is facing a great deficit, and its star players and followers will need every bit of strength and support to mount a fourth-quarter comeback and save their hallowed ground.

Mumbai has always been a basketball-crazed city, and the basketball court in the YMCA boys hostel in DN Nagar, Andheri, has been a favourite spot for neighbourhood ballers for decades. The court features nearly 200 regular youngsters who practice on a daily basis, and has hosted everyone from state and national level players, Bollywood actors like Neetu Chandra, big corporate CEOs, basketball-loving expats, and years of competitive invitational tournaments.

But now, it seems that the court’s days are numbered. Back in April this year, the YMCA announced a plan to replace the basketball court with a swimming pool. Although the YMCA has clarified that the court’s shutdown will only be temporary and it will return – new and improved – when the YMCA area has been refurbished, many regular players are skeptical and fear that their daily dose of hoops could be lost forever.

In May, the Times of India quoted a 14-year-old state champion basketball player, who said, “Two years ago, the lawn tennis facility was closed down for the swimming pool, but work is yet to start. Basketball could fall by the wayside too.”

Former India basketball captain Rajesh Srivastava has been one of the strongest voices against YMCA’s plans: “Basketball was invented at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. There are many swimming pools in the city but very few basketball courts, and this is the cheapest and best one between Bandra and Borivli. The YMCA charges around Rs 250 as annual fee. We hope it remains this way.”

“I am not against a pool, but why can’t both co-exist?” Srivastava later added (via Hindustan Times).

To help their cause, more than 200 students from the area have signed a petition to help save the basketball court from shutting down. According to The Hindustan Times, the students plan to present the list of names to local MP Gurudas Kamat, whose office is adjacent to the court.

Ebenezer Simeon, the general secretary of YMCA, has said in response to the protests that, “There has been some thinking, but nothing has been finalised so far. Basketball will not be affected. We have invented the sport, why would we let it suffer?”

Let’s hope for the sake of the players in that area that basketball prevails. This isn’t a battle between sports – basketball vs. swimming – but rather a plea to not steal away a landmark that not only holds iconic status in Mumbai but is also a breeding ground for many great young players in the city. Basketball is already a game that suffers in the peripheries behind other activities in mainstream India; let’s hope that this court doesn’t lose the battle for survival, too.

The fans of Andheri YMCA have a Facebook page through which they are trying to spread their message: join them and lend your support!

Edited by Staff Editor
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