Meet Sampoorna Rath, a young sports fan from Bhubaneswar, who has created quite a stir for pursuing a unique passion of collecting jerseys of eminent sports personalities. From what began as just a small Facebook request, the 23-year-old now has a collection of over 200 jerseys.
His wardrobe boasts of jerseys from Saina Nehwal to Rahul Dravid to Sunil Chhetri. Born in an upper middle class Brahmin family, Sampoorna first love, however, was cricket. “My first taste of any sports was the 2003 Cricket World Cup. I was just seven back then but as soon as I saw the Indian cricket team in action, I fell in love,” he says.
“Like every other kid around, I wanted to be one of them, I wanted to be a professional cricketer. But I wanted to pursue my education, I wanted to become a doctor and so here I am,” adds Sampoorna, who is now pursuing an internship in a private hospital in Bhubaneswar.
He remembers the first ever jersey he got from a young Aussie hockey star. “The first jersey I collected was that of an Australian hockey player — in fact, the current captain Aran Zalewski. It was during the 2013 season of the Hockey Indian League (HIL) in Bhubaneshwar,” he recalls.
“I was friends with him on Facebook and I remember chatting with him and asking for his jersey. At that time, I never thought I would become a jersey collector or anything, I just wanted memorabilia, you can say. Thankfully, he obliged and that’s how my hobby started.”
That was only the beginning. Next he targeted cricketers, the state’s players at first before moving on to cricket. Gradually, his interest extended to other sports like Football, Badminton, Squash, Tennis, Basketball and Athletics.
Asked about his favourite jersey, Sampoorna points out that he cannot single one out. “I cherish every meeting with every sportsperson that I have had and I cherish every jersey I have,” he says. However, he does fondly remember his meetings with Chhetri, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Marcelinho Leite and Chinglensana. So how exactly does he set up these meetings?
“Earlier it was easier,” concedes Sampoorna. “You could just message an athlete on Facebook and more often than not, they would respond. Nowadays, I have to find their contact info, or their manager’s contact info, tell them about me, how I like to collect jerseys.Then, I have to meet them in hotels or visit them in stadiums all over India/ It’s a long process but it’s every bit worth it when you get to meet the athlete in person and click photos with them.”
The passionate fan now wants his efforts to be recognised by the Guiness Book of World Records. Few people have the kind of collection that he has and he believes he can officially register a record. Currently, he has started his own YouTube channel where he takes interviews of sports personalities across various sports.