Five minutes before the final match of the Usha Ultimate Delhi-ght Frisbee Tournament is about to begin, players from the Learning To Fly team huddle together in a circle and jump in unison. Then, they begin to cheer loudly till their voices reach a crescendo: “Denial, Defence, F*****g Intense.” It’s an oddball mix of students, working professionals, entrepreneurs, techies and expats. The only thing that has got them together on the impressive greens of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is a passion for competitive Frisbee.
That’s right, the ubiquitous disc of picnics is no more a child’s play restricted to gardens. Any misconception of it being a “leisure activity” disappear when you see Bangalore-based Learning To Fly take on Chennai’s Four Play in a fast-paced, 60-minute game. There’s sprinting, diving, leaping in the air and some high-energy athleticism on display. For a spectator, Frisbee could have never been so action-packed. “Cricket seems stagnant in comparison — the maximum that can happen is a six or a four. Here, there are thrilling plays every second,” says an onlooker.
It’s no wonder, then, that what started as a “hippy” game in the US in the 1970s is now recognised as one of fastest-growing team sports in the world. “It’s cheap and all you require to play Ultimate Frisbee is, well, a Frisbee and open space,” says Chennai-based Praveen Balaji (28), who has been playing the sport for over five years and insists it’s “highly addictive”. An IT professional, Balaji says Ultimate Frisbee has found several takers in Chennai since the city has beaches where one can play in the open. It started as recreation but now all his weekends are dedicated to the game. “We even played during the cyclone,” he says. The city has around six Ultimate Frisbee clubs with close to 500 players.
The game is also gaining a steady following across cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Bangalore, Kodaikanal, Pune and Chandigarh.
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A blend of soccer, football and basketball, Ultimate Frisbee pits teams of seven against each other. One of its unique features is that the game is co-ed with the mandatory requirement of two female players per team. The team with the Frisbee has to pass it among players and make it reach the opponent’s end-zone without dropping it. Players cannot run with the disc and have to pass it within 10 seconds. The opposition can take possession of the disc by knocking it down or intercepting it. Since Ultimate Frisbee is a strictly no-contact sport, you have to do this without any pushing or shoving.
But there’s nothing gentle about the game — even the female players have to rough it out on the field. “Being a girl gets you no leeway, and the onus is on you to up your game,” says Kartika Rajaram (30).
To master Ultimate Frisbee, you need stamina, skill and patience on the field. “But for starters, it’s all about having fun with the Frisbee,” says Rajaram, who works for a renewable energy start-up in Bangalore and plays for Learning To Fly. She was introduced to the game by a bunch of friends seven years ago and has been hooked to it since then. “It’s the best way to remain fit since it involves a lot of running and cardio, and you can pick it up easily,” she says. You can burn up to 500 calories in a 30-minute game of Ultimate Frisbee. Players maintain that learning Ultimate Frisbee is not difficult. It can take a maximum of three weeks to get a hang of it.
Ultimate Frisbee is one of the few competitive sports that do not have a referee or an umpire. The game places the responsibility of fair play on players who have to be true to “the spirit of the game”. So, players must respect opponents, refrain from making flagrant fouls, and settle disputes amicably on the field. This demands a high level of sportsmanship. “You don’t play to bend the rules and you win if you are the best,” says Francois Ganneau, who plays for Delhi’s Stray Dogs in Sweaters. Ganneau moved to India from France for work and has been playing Ultimate Frisbee for seven years. He, along with his partners Komal Mehra and Varun Chawla, was instrumental in organising the tourney that, in its second edition this year, received sponsorship from Usha International. “Getting corporate sponsorship is a big step forward for the game,” says Mehra. The three-day tournament saw participation from 16 teams across the country. This year, the tourney’s organisers even got Brodie Smith, an American Ultimate Frisbee champion, to Delhi to promote the game.
Mehra, along with other Ultimate Frisbee enthusiasts, wants to take the sport to as many people as possible. “We know India is the land of cricket but if we can get young boys and girls to take up Ultimate Frisbee, we can achieve high traction for the game and see it touch new heights,” she signs off.
FRISBEE IN YOUR CITY
Ahmedabad: Dream Catchers
They welcome beginners to join their practice
Bangalore: Learning to Fly
LTF plays on various grounds across the city
You can catch them playing on beaches
Delhi: Stray Dogs in Sweaters
For information on their training and gaming timings, check out: http://www.delhiultimate.in/
Ultimate Frisbee teams don’t have any membership fee. For a complete list of Ultimate teams in India, you can log on to: www.indiaultimate.org/india/ india-teams//