India’s first International Wheelchair Basketball Tournament featured ten teams from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lebanon, Libya, Nepal, Palestine, Syria and India competing in men’s and women’s categories, with seven men’s and three women’s teams.

The matches started on 7 November and culminated on 11 November when India and Palestine played each other in the men’s finals while the teams from India and Cambodia faced off in the women’s finals. Every match was closely fought, the sportspersons demonstrating exceptional competitiveness, skills, determination and team spirit. Players’ excellent performances, coaches’ tactical understanding and confidence, and referees’ level-headed administration of the games made the tournament a success.

Organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in collaboration with the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI) and the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI), the tournament’s goals are to increase awareness and facilitate participation in recreational and competitive parasports. In 2014, the Regional Delegation in New Delhi began supporting wheelchair basketball as part of its Physical Rehabilitation Programme (PRP), which promotes social inclusion for persons with disabilities.

Various stakeholders and representatives from the government and local administration supported the event. As the event’s chief guest, Mr Mrityunjay Jha, Deputy Secretary (UNCRPD, Policy matters, RCI, National Fund, NIs, CRCs, Centre for Disability Sports), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, GoI, said, “I take this opportunity to share with you all that our government is attaching significant importance to not only the parasports but to the cause of empowerment for the persons with disabilities.”

Mr Kedir Awol Omar, Head of the Regional Delegation for India, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, thanked the continuous efforts of the ICRC Regional Delegation’s partners Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) and the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI), and the Government of India. “Participation in sports helps society to bridge the gap with a person with disability. This not only increases social awareness but also contributes to the development of a more equitable society with respect and equal opportunities for all individuals. As the International Day of Persons with disabilities will be celebrated on 3 December, we would like to dedicate this event to mark inclusion through sports and particularly team sports,” he said.

Mr Sujeet Ommen, President of WBFI, talked about the initiative and the association with the ICRC and said, “this tournament is the first of its kind in India and in a sense, we are writing sports history.”

During her remarks, PCI President Dr Deepa Malik said, “it is wonderful to see the ecosystem in parasports growing. Government policies and interests are now enabling us. The infrastructure and the will to grow and promote parasports is enabling us to organize international events, and it is very amazing to see teams from several different countries come here and have a successful event. It is going to further help us change the mindset towards disability and create an inclusive new India.”

As part of its efforts to promote wheelchair basketball globally, the ICRC provides expertise in designing suitable practices for the sport. Through this initiative, the ICRC also offers coaches, classifiers and referees courses in collaboration with the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF). Furthermore, it provides capacity-building training at National Training Institutes through courses on designing wheelchair basketball facilities and organizes regular practice sessions at supported rehabilitation centres.

Such initiatives also aim to strengthen national and regional disability sports associations by gathering support and enthusiasm for the sport.