Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy signs a five-year contract with the Infosys Foundation

BENGALURU: The Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) received a big boost before its silver wedding celebration next month, with the Infosys Foundation announcing a long-term partnership.

According to the memorandum of understanding signed by the president of the Sudha Murty Foundation and badminton legend Padukone on Teachers’ Day, the Foundation will support the ' Infosys Foundation -PPBA Champions Nurturing Program' through a grant of Rs 16 crore. The five-year programme will commence at the Infosys Foundation -Padukone Badminton Academy from next month.

"My only condition was that I wanted talented youngsters from Tier 2 and 3 cities. I come from a Tier 2 city and I know what it takes. There may be many talented people but they don't get enough opportunities and encouragement. So if PPBA could spot such talent and train them then (we said) Infosys Foundation is ready to sponsor that," Foundation chairperson Sudha Murty told reporters.

Sport is also part of education and when we look in that direction, the first name that came to mind was PPBA directed by our own legend Prakash Padukone. That is what led to today's memorandum of understanding. The total cost of the project is Rs 16 million rupees spread over five years. The amount for the first year is Rs 3 million rupees and Rs 3.25 cr for deliveries of the following years, he added.

Former All England champion Padukone said the PPBA took shape to spot and encourage talent from rural areas. "It's a great honour to sign this MoU with the Infosys Foundation . Our objective has been the same. Madam would be doing it other fields and we tried to do that through PPBA in badminton . The very purpose of starting PPBA was to recognize talent in Tier 2 and 3 cities. I played in the 60s and 70s when the game was not popular. I went through a lot of hardships. So after I retired in 1989, I, Vimal and Vivek Kumar decided to start the academy after we saw so much of talent in different parts of the country who were not getting the right kind of support," he said.

Padukone was confident that the new long-term link would help PPBA discover world-class players. This is our twenty-fifth year and we will celebrate our silver jubilee year when we started the PPBA on October 1. We chose talented players from Tier 2 and 3 cities. We always wanted to associate a group based in Bangalore. From day 1. Previously, BPL were our sponsors after Tata supported us for 12 years. Now, for the first time, we are signing a long-term contract. This gives us the opportunity to plan for the long term. We are currently training 45 players, most of them from Level 2 and 3 cities. In the future, we plan to increase this to 65. The last 4-5 years we are focused on young children and our effort is to give them opportunities to take them forward.

Padukone said there were many talented players below Saina, Sindhu and Srikanth who still hadn't left their mark. PPBA has done a great job raising these champions. We don't have to worry about talent in the next 10 years. I am very sure that we will do a good job and produce world champions and Olympic medalists like the bar. He is now high on Sindhu and Saina, he said.

PPBA co-founder and chief coach Vimal Kumar said sports in India is moving through the same phase which happened in Europe in the 70s. "I sacrificed my medical seat to play badminton but now sports as a profession is catching everyone's attention in our country. Something like what happened in Europe in the 70s. I see a lot of desire now (in the youngsters) as they have a lot more heroes to look at. When we grew up we only had Prakash to look up to," he said, adding that PPBA will really look forward to grooming future champions. "The new recruits will be from U-19, U-17, U-15 and U-13 categories. We also intend to start a doubles program," he said.