Image Credits: Fistosports
The history of Kabaddi is littered with examples of athletes coming from the humblest of backgrounds and making it big. From selling newspapers to fund his Kabaddi training expenses to becoming one of the best to play for Puneri Paltan's team, Girish Ernak's story is what dreams are made of. Many players tell a story of falling in love with the game immediately upon playing the sport for the first time. That initial glimpse through the facemask, and they’re hooked. Looking back at those years, Girish says, “I got introduced to Kabaddi back in my school days. It was due to my sports teacher, Sunil Koli that I began playing the sport. He had suggested my name for one of the Inter-School Kabaddi Tournaments without my knowledge. I had no idea about the sport but due to the immense faith that he showed in me, I took it up. Eventually, I was completely in awe of Kabaddi and decided to pursue it further." "By the time I reached the 10th standard, I played numerous taluka level and district level kabaddi tournaments for my school team. I decided to join the Om Kabaddi Sangh, in Kalyan which has produced some of the best Kabaddi players and I wanted to be one of them as well. I used to walk 5 kms to reach my academy," said Girish. "My love for Kabaddi is what kept me going. My initial days were full of struggle, I decided to earn while I learn. I used to sell newspapers to meet my training expenses. The journey has taught me that despite the hardships you face, you should not give up," he added. An astute athlete, Girish Ernak has established his supremacy in Kabaddi as a solid defender in the left corner. One of the experienced players of the team, he has been a strong backbone of Puneri Paltan’s defense. Known for his ankle holds, tight grips, blocks and dashes, Girish has never ceased to surprise the fans with spectacular performances. When asked to name as a point of constant support and motivation in his kabaddi journey so far. "My parents," said Girish. "They have been my constant pillar of support. Without their motivation and encouragement, I would not have achieved what I have today. Now I feel that coming from a very humble background, it must not have been easy for my parents to support my decision of playing Kabaddi. They saw the passion I had for the game and kept on supporting me through thick and thin. They have been my constant source of strength throughout my journey and all the success that I have achieved goes to them." He came into his own in Season 5 with Puneri Paltan establishing his credentials as a solid left corner defender. He carried his form well at the national level, as a part of India's 2018 Kabaddi Masters Dubai winning team. "Kabaddi Masters was truly a special experience for me. It is every athlete’s dream to represent your country on an international level and for me to achieve that was a life-changing experience. With so many countries participating in the Championship, I got to learn a lot from other players in terms of technique and skills. I got an opportunity to interact with and observe the game of various international players from other countries which was an extremely enriching experience for me. As a team, India won the tournament which was a proud moment for me." Ernak was a part of the Maharashtra team which won the 65th Senior Nationals (2017-2018) and came third in the 3rd Federation Cup (2018). "Yes, I was a part of the team that won the Senior Nationals Championship in 2018. It was a moment of pride for me to bring the title to Maharashtra after 11 long years. I cannot put into words the happiness you feel on winning something for your state after such a long gap. When your hard work pays off, that feeling is incomparable." Everybody expects Girish Ernak to always play well after his fabulous performances throughout the seasons. He says the good performances only wants him work hard further. "Honestly, as athletes we are expected to deliver a good performance. But that is not a reason to be pressurised. Neither me nor my team perform under any pressure. Both me and my team are working tirelessly to put our best foot forward and help Puneri Paltan achieve their dream," said the Puneri Paltan's defender. Girish feels that with the help of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League, the sport scenario has completely changed how the sport of Kabaddi is viewed. He said: "Yes. PKL has made Kabaddi popular among the urban crowd. The sport has undergone a complete glamourous makeover in today’s age. Now people follow not just the sport but the players as well. As players we are receiving so much love and support from the people which is extremely overwhelming." "The affection and appreciation of our fans is what keeps us going and inspires us to perform better. PKL has also given us financial stability and has changed our lives. Today, I feel so happy to see kids playing Kabaddi in the lanes and people embracing the sport so much." Being a defender is not easy, that too performing well at the highest level consistently. Girish says that he's always focused on his performance and constantly work to improve himself. "Focussing on improvement keeps me motivated to do better and put in that efforts. I always work to go that extra mile during practice and training sessions which has helped my game. I make sure I consult our head coach about my performance and work on my strengths and weaknesses so that I can do better." When asked Is there any team that you feel is a threat to you or the Puneri Paltans? He feels, "I don’t think that I see any particular team as a threat for us. Every team has been working on their performance to give their best in the league, and honestly, I feel every team is our competition. Each team is improving their skills and putting their best foot forward and giving brilliant performances and so is Puneri Paltan." Girish also stressed the importance of development in the grassroots to help promote the sport of Kabaddi further. "I feel Kabaddi needs to be promoted from the grassroot. To promote the sport further, there should be more investment in infrastructure and provision of world-class facilities which will give a boost to the sport and help nurture young talent. Kabaddi is not limited to the rural areas anymore and has garnered the limelight in urban areas as well. Now that they have embraced Kabaddi, there should also be more Kabaddi academies in these areas for youngsters to attract talent and hone their skills. I feel the corporates should also make Kabaddi a priority and support the sport to give it more visibility. I feel very proud to be associated with a team like Puneri Paltan, which has taken up initiatives for promoting and uplifting Kabaddi from the grassroot levels. Puneri Paltan has been a regular in organising inter-club and inter-corporate kabaddi tournaments that go by the name ‘Bol Kabaddi’. This provides a great platform for the young talent as well as the corporate employees to showcase their kabaddi skills." On his personal targets for this season and his future goals, he says that his only motto is to give his best and perform for the team. "I don’t have a set goal for myself. My team’s target is my target and what they want to achieve is what I want to achieve. I want my team to be the best and that is what I have been concentrating on. I have made a few changes in my game and I am doing everything it takes for my team," he rounded off.