“Sports encourages healthy lifestyle, teaches teamwork and promotes unity in diversity.”
– Vijay Darda
Vijay Darda developed a keen interest in wrestling as a child when he used to see pehelwans in action at Hanuman Vyayam Shala in his hometown Yavatmal. As he grew up, he was pained at the plight of this traditional Indian sport and organised the first grand wrestling competition of ‘Maharashtra Kesri’ in the state.
During his stay in Mumbai, Darda saw boys playing Kabaddi during the night at Chowpatty beach. It inspired him to promote the common man’s game through an All India Kabaddi tournament at Yavatmal. He made travel and accommodation arrangements for nearly a thousand players that came to participate from across the country.
Darda also invited the then Union Home Minister Giani Zail Singh and celebrities like Dilip Kumar, Jeetendra, Rishi Kapoor and Madan Puri, that brought much needed popularity to the sport. Impressed with the success of the tournament, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi got Kabaddi included in Asian Games on Darda’s insistence.
His father, Jawaharlal Darda during his stint as the Sports Minister of Maharashtra focused on promoting young talented sportspersons. Taking his legacy ahead, Vijay Darda launched the first-of-its-kind ‘Under-19 Cricket Tournament’. This enabled potential players from remote places like Gadchiroli and Sindhudurg to gain national recognition.
To further encourage sports in Maharashtra, Lokmat Media Group under his chairmanship, decided to host cricket and football series on the pattern of Indian Premier League (IPL). Cricket tournaments like Aurangabad Premier League and Nashik Premier League were organised with the assistance from local industrial houses.
Moreover, franchise-based football tournaments like Nagpur Premier League and Kolhapur Premier League had become the point of attraction for sports buffs. Under his guidance, Lokmat also organised Nagpur Maha Marathon with a theme ‘I Run For Myself’ that received participation from thousands of fitness enthusiasts in the city.
Darda often quotes that continuous efforts are required for the promotion of sports in the country and contribution from every section of the society is a must to achieve it.