From being a "colony champ" to begin with, to becoming the first Goan girl to be part of a West Zone women’s team for the 10th inter-zonal carrom championships to be held at Pudducherry, from November 30 to December 2, Panaji-based Zenelyn Afonso is relishing her foray into carrom – a sport no-so-common among the fairer sex in the state.
Given the fact that Zenelyn believes that carrom has the potential to cast its net wider in the state and pull more girls towards the sport, considered generally as a hobby and mostly not taken up as a serious avocation among women, this teenager from football-crazy Goa has definitely moved to a level higher than most others.
The Dhempe College of Arts and Science, Miramar’s 2nd year BA student, is more of a versatile being and adds to her repertoire just that extra zip than just limiting herself to be a carrom exponent.
Influenced by both her parents, who have an inclination towards sports and have been largely instrumental in encouraging their two children into pursuing their interests in life, Zenelyn moved the carrom way some five years ago during her schooling in Don Boscos.
It looked then that at school Zenelyn would push herself more into basketball owing to her natural height. And, she did play basketball, but her sporting gene also made her part of the inter-HSS badminton winners team at Don Bosco before she naturally got attracted to carrom, thanks to the Patto colony where she lives.
It was the colony atmosphere in Patto ala chawl-like in Mumbai, where Zenelyn got hooked to carrom and kept improving thereafter.
In a short span, the carrom bug bit her so hard that she kept winning tournaments held in the colony, only to find herself emerging as Patto champ.
"It was a delightful moment then," recalled Zenelyn while sharing her initial glory in a tête-à-tête with The Navhind Times.
Attending a carrom camp at Clube Tennis De Gaspar Dias in Miramar in 2007, to hone her skills, proved to be the turning point for young Zenelyn, who had now started to take the household pass time more seriously.
"My parents did encourage me then as I had started loving carrom very much. Thereafter I started taking it seriously," reminded Zenelyn, who is also pursuing music concurrently and plays the classical guitar. She has also performed at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Dhempe College with the college band and is good with her vocals as well. Besides, she has been a dancer and had been learning Bhartnatyam in the past and has also explored the actor within her through her theater performances in plays like Godspell.
Zenelyn has achieved the distinction of representing the state at the carrom nationals at Varanasi and Chennai in 2009 and 2010 respectively, which she felt, boosted her confidence and set the ball rolling as far as her budding career is concerned.
"What motivated me more was the 30 marks that came my way because of the sports policy by virtue of my appearance in the nationals. Therefore, it lifted my percentage from 77 to 82 during the Std 12th examination," Zenelyn disclosed while highlighting the virtues of playing sport while pursuing academics. She was however of the opinion that students should not play sport only for the sake of earning the extra marks earmarked through sports policy but also concentrate on boosting their percentages by adopting a studious approach. A thought seconded by her mother Ms Noelyn.
"The government should in fact think of inducting carrom into the National Games, which Goa would be hosting in 2014. This will definitely encourage other children to play carrom, more on a serious note, as age nor sex is a bar for playing this wonderful sport," noted Ms Noelyn.
Even Zenelyn added that the Goa Carrom Association needs to sensitise schools and colleges by conducting regular workshops and camps and enlightening the students on the benefits of a sport like carrom, which is a big craze among youth in states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, with the latter even producing a world champion.
On a personal count, Zenelyn said she is now focusing on the upcoming inter-zonal carrom championships in Puducherry and wants to do well. "It’s an extremely important tournament for me as I am the lone Goan selected in the West Zone women’s team and that puts the onus on me.
"The feeling is something different this time as I want to capitalize on the opportunity that has come my way and strive to perform well at Puducherry," summed up Zenelyn, hoping for a possible break-to-finish, although it’s not her forte as of now. She thanked the Goa Carrom Association for all the support and assistance in her endeavours to excel in carrom. [NT]