Sports in India - A game of indifference & inequality

Celebrating Sports victory

For winners at the Rio Olympics so many Governments, Private institutions and Individuals came up with rewards galore – Cash, land, cars, jobs and more. Product endorsements and ads followed these rewards. Then there would be a continuous stream of prize-money income from tournaments.  Everyone wanted to be photographed with the winners.

It meant respect and celebration of hard work and victory, although overall sport may not gain much from it.

It all started looking so good. But after then what? What lies in store for other sportsmen and sports in general ?

What about other Sportsmen?

Then there are Indian players who have won Gold, Silver and Bronze at the Paralympics – which is the Olympics for the disabled.

We hear nothing much about the ‘encouragement’ to sports, ‘celebration’ of victory, or ‘felicitations’ to the winners. The nation has let them down.

Was all the recent hullabaloo for glamour and publicity? Have these Paralympics winners won with less hard-work? Have they not faced much more hurdles than regular players?

In fact, poor and disabled players have to overcome bigger motivational, societal, economic and logistics roadblocks to reach those levels. Competitions are rare and money is meagre. So who needs more incentives, rewards and recognition?

Hope equality and fairness prevails in the society some day.

Playing a loosing game

First sport and sportsmen are neglected. Then there are no open playgrounds – everything is real estate. In the old days, establishment of new colonies included playgrounds. Nothing like that now, even in small towns. Free land is used for government programs or auctioned to real estate and commercial developers.

Many playgrounds have been converted to parks or temples or schools. Most schools don’t have playgrounds. Private playgrounds are expensive. Professional Sports Training Academies are very rare and only in select sports. Compared to the population of an Indian city, the number of open playgrounds and sports training academies is so low that majority of the population does not have an access. So where do people play?

Newspapers report that a huge inventory of sports equipment in stadiums lie unused. Schools and parents don’t encourage sports as a profession.

For those few brave ones who still take-up sports with passion, there is hardly any money except in cricket.

But money comes raining from everywhere when a player wins even one big game. People compete with each the other to reward. It becomes so much that some of the players switch their careers to setting up a business or academy instead of continuing to play. Some discontinue competitive sports after getting a a job under Sports Quota.

Prop-up support to Sports please

Sports needs infrastructure and continuous support, not just raining cash on winners like a casino game, while leaving other sportsmen to break stones for a living.

Some recommendations to uplift sports in India:

  • Municipalities should come up with Playgrounds across the city. The playgrounds should include branded sports equipment on rent.
  • Ensure good maintenance and protection of the playgrounds and playing equipment through Usage charges on a no-loss no-profit basis.
  • Govt and Private individuals should also start affordable hi-tech Sports Training Academies across the city with scientific equipment and coaches. Players in western countries have access to advanced equipment that can analyse their body parameters and other performance aspects.
  • Include Sports & Coaching in existing Employment & Skill initiatives like NSDM (National Skill Development Mission) , PMRY etc.
  • Prevent malpractices and misappropriation in Sports administration through regular Audits.
  • Start grass-root Municipal level special Programs to identify and groom kids at a a very young age to become champions.
  • Every child must get an opportunity to display sports skills through these Programs.
  • Encourage the kids identified for grooming with scholarships until they continue the sport.
  • Disabled children should get equal opportunity and special training.

There is much more to do. We need to start moving in the right direction. Because sports is not just recreation – it also means employment for many, and pride for the country.