The Beast from the East: the inspirational rise of rugby sensation Tudu Sailen
India is the land of the Great Khali, Satnam Singh Bhamra, Dara Singh,Vijender Singh and many more born fighters. A nation that has often wrongly been billed as outright patient and tolerant, India has plenty of anger, aggression, strength, size and power in its youth. More or less, all the attributes required for a sport like rugby.
Only when one talks about rugby in India, people immediately pop up with the statement “We don’t have the proper infrastructure”. And yet, here is an inspirational story of a barefoot tribal boy who defied all odds to make it to the top in rugby.
Spare a thought for Tudu Sailen, whose story reminds one of the protagonist in the movie ‘Goal’ who incredibly makes it from rags to riches in football through great toil. Only, Sailen plays rugby and comes from a background that is even more humble than the one shown in the movie.
A tribal boy from the hills, Sailen did not even have running water or electricity in his home when he grew up. He was brought up in the village of Bhengam in Bankuru, where he lived in a mud hut with his parents and two elder sisters. He was at a playing field in Kolkata when he saw a couple of foreigners playing a game that he had never seen before. He couldn’t speak a word of English but was still invited to play.
From that day on, he started playing with the slum kids at a dirty field which was filled with rubbish in Kolkata, when he was spotted by Englishman Paul Walsh. Walsh was impressed with Sailen immensely and hence flew him to meet with ex-England rugby captain Phil Vickery. Vickery was amazed at what he saw and realized what special talent the Indian tribal boy was in posession of. He thus made sure that Sailen got a £40,00o sports scholarship at Hartpury College, Gloucestershire.
From there on, there’s been no stopping the rise of Tudu Sailen. Referred to by fellow students as ‘The Beast from the East’ dubbed the ‘Scrumdog Millionaire’ by the media, he is now an Indian international, has been capped several times and is on the verge of glorious international career.
The success of Tudu Sailen brings the spotlight on a sport that has been hitherto been ignored in India. The country does have decent infrastructure for the sport in the form of two world class rugby stadiums, thanks to the CWG and CWG youth games held in New Delhi and Pune. But the nation lacks hard work and ambition to look beyond established sports like cricket.
As said by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Skill to do comes of doing”. If a tribal boy from the hills can make it big in the sport, this nation certainly is not short of skillful sportsmen. The trick lies in being ambitious and developing the sport with meticulous planning. Tudu Sailen’s story should serve as an inspirational precursor to the development of rugby in India and not go waste as a one-off success story.
From Transworld Sport:
Edited by Zico