Lack Of Vision

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 02 Dec 2018 09:16:27

 A WOMAN footballer, who represented the country 10 years ago, is now running a roadside tea stall in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district. Kalpana Roy, 26, also coaches around 30 boys and trains them twice a day in order to keep herself fit, as she still nurtures the dream of playing again.  Kalpana’s stint as a footballer was cut short in 2013 after she suffered a serious injury in her right leg, during a match in the Women’s League, which is conducted by the Indian Football Association. 

From then on, she had no financial assistance from any quarter, which gradually scuttled her blooming career. Her father used to run the tea stall but he is now suffering from old age ailments, which she took over to run the family. She said, “I was contacted for trial for the senior national side but financial constraints forced me to stay back. I do not have a place to stay in Kolkata. Besides, if I leave, who will look after the family? My father is not well now.”

She played four international matches as an under-19 footballer in 2008. Kalpana says, she is fit enough to play at the senior level and also experienced enough to coach. “I am confident that I can contribute to the game in both ways. All I need is a job so that I do not have to worry about the family’s requirements,” she said.

If anyone is interested, Kalpana said she can also set up a girls’ team taking players from north Bengal. “We have plenty of talents but no infrastructure,” Kalpana, who was also a member of u-17 and u-19 sides of the Bengal team, lamented. This is not an isolated story but unfortunately a general trend when it comes to sportspersons and sports culture in the country. As soon as a player is off the stage, he or she is forgotten.

There are thousands of players who once represented the country and held the right potentials but are today languishing in obscurity and penury once out of favour of the powers that be. They were never taken care of, groomed or promoted to extract the best out of them. In India, we are obsessed with cricket and cricketers, as a result of which other sports disciplines suffer.

The biggest money is with BCCI and cricket while other sports like hockey or football have measly funds with them. Consequently, they die or at best remain on the sidelines forever. Cricket has a monopoly on the centre stage of glamour and publicity and no other sport in India can take its place. As long as this bias of tradition continues, we will have wonderful talents lost in the wilderness like Kalpana.

The lack of money and attention also hits infrastructure and logistics. If there is no money there cannot be the best facilities for the players. Other sports don’t have swanky stadiums like cricket. They don’t get the best coaches or the best board and lodging facilities like cricketers do. They plod through multiple difficulties and challenges and hence their performance on the international stage suffers. Had our players got the facilities their counterparts in other countries get, we would have bagged half a score gold medals in every Olympic games.

Our priorities are misplaced and talents and finances mismanaged. Corruption also has a role to play in this. Most sports bodies here are not run by the experts of the games but by political leaders of influence and money. This is the sorry part of the story. Most of these political bosses have little to do with the sports management they run. Their concern is money and heft. Talents thus become secondary. Selections are biased and not always on the basis of merit. This hits a team’s morale and we get beatings in international arenas.

Defeats make these sports less popular and no one wants to put in money on them. The ascendency of cricket thus remains untouched. This is the reason we don’t have good ‘teams’ ever in any sports. We have individual charismas who buck the trend and make their way through but as teams, we falter.

We may have a Sania Mirza or a Saina Nehwal on the world stage once in a while but they are examples of individual excellence, which don’t define the sports culture of the country. It is only due to our poor sports culture that we don’t have the best teams and we look up to stray individual talents who have outgrown their ecosystems.

But such rarities cannot be the trend and unless we have a trend of developing good teams ground up, most of our sports and potential talents will perish or remain ignored and deprived. It is time to change the whole sports culture in the country. Sports management should be handed over to the experts in the field and not to political heavyweights.
That’s the first major step towards reformation. As long as vested interests are at play, we cannot excel. When the system is clean and transparent, companies will also not shirk from loosening their purse strings. Once money flows in, and corruption is weeded out, in no time we will be able to provide the best infrastructure and logistics to those games and their players. If the players and upcoming talents get the right attention and grooming from the right persons in the job, they can come up as some of the biggest stars of their games.

Once we have such stars, the games will get greater publicity, which in turn will further cement their place and make them a part of our culture, like cricket is. We are seeing such resurgence in traditional sports like Kabaddi, which is seeing a renewed interest due to aggressive corporate funding. Why can’t the same be replicated in other sports? But it is always easier said than done.

The clout and hold of influential people are so strong on the sport management bodies that it is very tough for any government or administration to throw out the nexuses and bring probity in the dealings without putting their own future at risk. No one dares to disrupt the status quo lest it should open a Pandora’s Box of historical flaws and get many heads rolling.

By the way, nevertheless, a beginning has to be made. It is a shame that our assets and treasures are being squandered due to our lack of vision and inefficiency in management. This is akin to robbing the country of its privileges and inherent endowments. People involved in such misdeeds must be brought to the book and the system purged of its ills for a better sports future that the country can pride on.