PATIALA: A new sport is going to take Punjabis by storm in the coming weeks. American Football – the rugby-like game played in United States – has set foot on Punjab soil from Thursday, at the Punjabi University grounds here. Organized by Association of India Universities (AIU) in collaboration with Elite Football League of India (EFLI) – a professional American Football League body in India – the tournament has 20 universities from all over India taking part in it. Punjab is being represented by four varsities, the Punjabi University (Patiala), Guru Nanak Dev University (Amritsar), Lovely Professional University (Jalandhar) and Chandigarh University, in the tournament. Still in its infancy in India, the sport, which enjoys equal status to basketball and baseball in the US, is finding huge support base in Punjab. “Four-five months back, the EFIL appointed American coaches in 16 different Indian universities. This move roused the interest of youngsters in the game after which we got 20 universities participating in this tournament,” Dr. Raj Kumar Sharma, director of sports at the Punjabi University told TOI. He also added that the decision to organize this meet was taken after the AIU gave nod to include American Football in the sports calendar of inter-university games. A team from Delhi, which has been labeled as the “Delhi Defenders” is also taking part in the tournament. Adesh Kumar, the head coach of the team, said, “The game was introduced in India in 2011 and our main aim is to popularize the sport. This tournament will go a long way in achieving what we have been striving for.” So, its time to brace up for some high-octane action with players wearing helmets, donning cleats and smacking the power girdles!

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