on Nov. 24, 2007
Members of the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula and International School basketball team bring home the trophy for First Place in the ICSE All India National Basketball Championship.
I am victory, I am adventure, and I am the strength of the strong.
--Lord Krishna, in Bhagavad-gita 10.36
Vrindavana, India—Demonstrating that young people can be simultaneously
successful in things related to both the body and the soul, the high school students of the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula and International School beat all odds last month and brought home the winner's trophy for First Place in the ICSE All India National Basketball Championship.
The Bhaktivedanta Gurukula and International School (BGIS) is best known as a small, highly accredited parochial boys school in the North India pilgrimage town of Vrindavana, in Uttar Pradesh. The school was founded in 1976, by Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and is based on Prabhupada's teachings and the Vaishnava traditions of the 15th Century saint Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
About 1,500 schools from across India are members of the Indian Certificate of Secondary Schools (ICSE), an association of private schools. While the Bhaktivedanta School has only 200 students, it competed against much larger schools, some with student bodies ten times its size.
“As a religious school, the most important part of our athletic program is to teach the students about healthy competition, to help them develop the qualities of hard work and commitment and to dutifully try their hardest while leaving the results up to Krishna," said Braja Bihari dasa, the team's head coach.
The coach added with a smile, “I never dreamed we could win the All India contest. I don't know if I ever prayed so hard in my life."
The BGIS team's regular season record in Mathura District won them the right to compete in the State Championships in Kanpur, UP, from October 5-7. There they prevailed among the top eight teams of Uttar Pradesh, winning the chance to represent UP in the National Championship in Mysore, Karnataka.
Per ISCE rules, after a team wins the State Championship, they are entitled to bring their team up to the league limit of twelve players for the National Championship, by adding players from another school in their state. Accordingly, when the BGIS team left Vrindavana for the two-day train ride to the championship, they took with them two additional players from a neighboring school, Toshif Ahmmed and Mohammad Hussain.
Both young men are capable basketball players—and of the Muslim faith. Their participation not only made the BGIS team better but expanded it to an interfaith expression of India's youth.
In Mysore, the competition among the 8 national finalists was intense, and BGIS had to forge victories against the Northwestern States (Delhi, Rajastan, and Punjab), Karnataka, and Andra Pradesh before moving on to the final round. In the final game, they battled for the championship against Kerala, the one team who had beaten them—by just one point—in an earlier match of the round-robin competition.
"The greatest challenge for us," said 15-year-old team captain Gopinath Bloch, "was to not become frustrated by the obstacles we faced, and to not lose our determination. We knew that as long as we worked as a team, and never gave up, we could be successful."
The final forty-minute match—the standard for high school basketball in India—was held at the De Paul International School in Mysore. It was an exciting game, and a test of nerves and stamina for both young teams. The Bhaktivedanta students came away with a victory—by one point.
Upon their return to Uttar Pradesh, the champions were invited to meet the District Magistrate of Mathura, Mrs. Anita Meshram, who gave each player a plaque of honor for bringing the National Trophy to Mathura.
The team members are Gopinath Bloch (Captain), Madhav Javeri, Shivam Yadav, Prahlad Beillard, Jeremie Carter, Narottoma Rewah, Ramacandra Gaire, Madhav Pandey, Ankur Sachdev, Raj Kumar Rathore, Toshif Ahmmed, and Mohammad Hussain. Their coaches are Braja Bihari das and Mr. Yogesh Yadav, who is also the school’s sports teacher.