Vijay Darda is associated mainly with politics and media, but there is one more field with which he is closely associated. He is keenly interested in Indian sports like Kabaddi and wrestling. He developed this interest in childhood when he used to see the then prominent wrestlers in action at Hanuman Vyayam Shala, Yavatmal.
He is pained at the plight of these pure Indian sports. Therefore, he decided to do his bit for development of these sports to the extent possible. He put his idea into action by organizing All India Kabaddi tournaments. These tournaments afforded an opportunity to local sportsmen from Yavatmal as well as the top teams from the state and the country to showcase their talent. An attempt has been made to pair this game with glamour to enhance its popularity.
Meanwhile, it was decided to take Kabaddi to the international level and donations were collected to send the Kabaddi team to the Asian Games for ‘demonstration game’. It is a matter of pride to note that the Indian Kabaddi has carved a niche for itself at the international level.
For the promotion of wrestling, ''Maharashtra Kesri'' wrestling contest was held at Yavatmal. Whenever the issue of Maharashtra Kesari is discussed, sports buffs always remember the competition in Yavatmal. An attempt was made through Lokmat to bring games and sports into the national mainstream along with bringing about cultural and social development of the state. Vijay Darda's father, freedom fighter and former Maharashtra minister Jawaharlal Darda was keenly interested in sports and when he was the state sports minister, he focused on young talented sports persons and promoted their talent. Therefore, Lokmat decided to advance the cause launched by him. The first unique ‘Under-19 cricket tournament’ was held in his memory. This experiment was successful as it enabled sporting talents from remote tribal places like Gadchiroli and Sindhudurg to get state as well as national recognition. Besides, Lokmat, under the leadership of Vijay Darda, decided to host cricket and football tournaments on the pattern of IPL. Cricket tournaments are being held at Aurangabad (APL) and Nashik (NPL) with the assistance of local industrial houses. Moreover, franchise-based football tournaments in Nagpur (Nagpur Premier League) and Kolhapur (Kolhapur Premier League) have become the point of attraction for sports buffs. Such continuous efforts are required for promotion of sports and equal participation from every section of the society.
Reminiscing his childhood, Vijay Darda says, "Babuji and my mother encouraged us to play games that normal children played such as 'gilli danda', 'khupasni' and 'daag dugli', wherein we used to climb up the trees like monkeys. Whenever we met with a fall or sustained an injury, Babuji and other elders in the family would never be over-protective. Instead, their words "Don't worry, get up and get going" taught us to stand up on our feet every time we fail in life".
Narrating another interesting phase from his students days, he said, "I and Rajendra used to go to Hanuman Akhada situated near our house. This 'akhada' was the centre of freedom struggle with which Babuji was intimately associated. I remember how we two brothers learnt wrestling. we practised 'malkhamb' too here, in true traditional style, applying oil all over the body. We wrestled with well-known wrestlers and they would feign a fall, pretending to lose which boosted our morale. All this was great fun" he said.
As we grew up, our games too changed. We switched over to playing hockey and football..., but in those days, we did not even have hockey sticks, so the hardened base of palm leaves were used for dribbling the ball. We used to play soccer in school shoes on the police training ground," he says.
"From Std. V to X, we received coaching in football from head constable Bala Ramji Sunkar, who was one of the best soccer players then. In between, I concentrated on hockey.
"We organised national-level tennikoit, badminton and TT tournaments when I was in school in Yavatmal. I even brought out a souvenir on these sporting events, raised funds and invited well-known people to watch the games," he says. When Vijay Darda joined the Amolakchand College in Yavatmal for a year, it had organised a national level table tennis tournament in association with Yavatmal district TT Association. Vijay found his calling in TT and played at several state level championships.
Thereafter, Vijay Darda joined Lokmat, but continued to remain active in sports. While in Lokmat, he organised a national-level kabaddi tournament. Describing how the idea of organising kabaddi tournament struck him, he says, "During my stay in Mumbai, I saw boys working in homes and offices gather at Chowpatty by the night and play kabaddi on the sand. As the game is a common man's game requiring tremendous skill and stamina and yet had no recognition at the national-level, I thought of popularising the game throughout the country. All along the tournament, politicians and film stars were invited to give the game the much-needed attention. And that helped.
Those invited were then Union home minister Giani Zail Singh, Vasant Sathe, superstar Dilip Kumar who himself contributed in popularising the game through his hit movie 'Ganga Jamuna', Jeetendra, Rishi Kapoor, Madan Puri and many famous screen stars.
Darda says, "One politician who appreciated the tournament and its organisers was Sharad Pawar who was also the president of All India Kabaddi Federation. Soon an international team was formed which played tournaments in Japan, Korea, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Thailand." Darda says, "five-star treatment was given to as many as 1000 kabaddi players who had come from all over India to participate in the tournament. They were very happy with it as they had received shoddy treatment till then."
The then Prime Minister of India Late Indira Gandhi was extremely impressed when she was informed about the tournament and promised to include the sport in Asiad Games. She kept her promise.