What started off as a cloth merchant’s attempt to provide the youth with a means to pursue healthy activities, now is that and much more. On the 168th anniversary of the YMCA, we visit its City chapters
There is hardly a day that the basketball court at the Secunderabad YMCA does not see action. There are young kids at one end and older players at the other training rigorously — dunking, passing and dribbling. Several national and State players learned the nuances of the game on this very court. It is only right that it has come to be known over the years as the cradle of basketball in Hyderabad.
YMCA units across the world are the fruits of the vision of a cloth merchant who lived in London in the 1800s. George Williams was concerned that young men in London had no way to pursue healthy activities, the only real options existing then being brothels and taverns. And thus took birth the first ever YMCA unit in London on June 6, 1844.
Please do not conclude that basketball is the only sport or activity that was boosted by the efforts of YMCA. “Mir Qazim Ali, the triple national champion in the 1960s and Arjuna awardee in table tennis, trained at the YMCA unit in Narayanguda. Mulini Reddy, Arjuna awardee in volleyball, also trained here. Dr Jaipal Reddy and Sitaram Yechury are products of the UniY programme that focuses on intellectual activities like debates and public speaking at the Narayanguda YMCA,” said Vinay Swaroop, who recently retired as the general secretary of the YMCA.
Apart from that YMCA Hyderabad has been at the forefront of relief activities in the communal riots in 1991. “We would take relief materials in trucks to the riot-hit areas and distribute it,” recalled Swaroop.
YMCA is short for Young Men’s Christian Association. But the services it renders the society is unbound by religion or caste. “We are proud that here we serve all sections of the society,” said Swaroop.
There are several people who have benefitted from the programmes of YMCA. Eugene George, the coach of the AP basketball team, said, “My father passed away when I was very young. I stayed and studied at the YMCA Secunderabad boys’ hostel. I never had to struggle for anything when I was there. It also helped me pursue the love of my life — basketball. All that I am today is because of YMCA.”
It’s been 168 years and two days to be precise since the inception of the London unit. But the strength of William’s vision has not waned; rather it has only gotten stronger.