Why we shouldn't need Aamir Khan to promote wrestling in India

S Kannan
S KannanFeb 12, 2017 | 11:56

Why we shouldn't need Aamir Khan to promote wrestling in India

Indian football rarely makes news, though the latest government initiative — Mission 11 million — sounds good on paper. Ideally speaking, using the FIFA under-17 World Cup mascot launch in the capital to promote football at the grassroot level is a bit strange.

Everyone knows promoting sport in India today at the grassroot level is the need of the hour. Critics keep cribbing each time the nation does badly in an international multi-discipline games, cricket has corporate support and the rest don’t!

Everyone knows cricket doesn’t really have to be “promoted” in that sense as new talent is thrown up regularly at the state level. The worry is about needless hype about certain events, with a double hundred by one batsman in an unofficial T20 match in the capital last week pumped up crazily. The match was not even part of a recognised tournament and the size of the boundary was very small. To make it worse, the pitch resembled an old matting surface.

To be sure, it’s sport other than cricket which needs the push and hype with the government support going up by Rs 350 crore in the last Financial Budget. But there is a catch in this. Sports federations in India keep cribbing about how they don’t have funds and it’s the government’s responsibility to promote athletes.

The point is, if you look at the sports calendar today in India, national championships and so on are no longer important. The big focus is how televised leagues have mushroomed and they get the hype. From wrestling to kabaddi and football to badminton, each pro league has become more visible.

From wrestling to kabaddi, big focus is how televised leagues have mushroomed and they get the hype.

It is more or less accepted that ownership of theses leagues is not so much in the hands of national sports federations but other parties. In return, each sporting federation does get money. If you and I try and ask the wrestling, badminton or All India Football Federation what they get as “fees” you may not get the most accurate figure.

The point is when sports federations are getting money, they should be utilising it in promotion of sport. Be it any level, supporting the international athletes who can get the nation glory or pushing sport at the grassroot level, the role of federations look so diminished. And when it comes to funding athletes, the sports federations waste no time in sending their recommendation list to the government.

Coming back to the Mission 11 million in football, it’s nice to know the government wants to take football to 12,000 schools in 37 cities. A project like this need not have waited till India gets ready to host the under-17 FIFA World Cup as players from here are not going to join the national squad this year! Then again, “indiscipline” is the word which comes to the mind as removal of the India under-17 football coach Nicolai Adam was handled badly.

The point is, from football to hockey and wrestling to badminton, sport needs promotion at the basic level. One doesn’t need Bollywood’s Aamir Khan in Dangal to highlight the travails of a Phogat family in Haryana in women’s wrestling. Before this Shah Rukh Khan’s Chak de India had highlighted women’s hockey and the role of the coach.

Sport promotion in India should be the main responsibility of the national federation and its associated state units. The other day, just after India won the Davis Cup tie against New Zealand, Yuki Bhambri fired at the All India Tennis Association that they do not help players enough. The same lament has been heard from Ramkumar Ramanathan as well.

The time has come when sports federations which are not in the red need to do something for helping the talent pool. Merely suggesting the big players get funding from the government’s TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) is not enough.

Minus support from the Indian government, Olympic sport in India would be dead. Be it hockey, or the badminton, wrestling, kabaddi and football federations, they also need to spend on grooming talent. The sports ministry is tightening screws so that sports federations come under the Niti Aayog.

The government observers need to play a more proactive role, too, in pushing federations harder to promote sport. With the government in rejig mode over new panels and committees to target medals in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics, planners in sport need to get a bit more realistic. Till now, none has talked about what should be the path ahead for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast and the Asian Games in Indonesia.

Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra, super coach P Gopichand and well-known sports promoter Viren Rasquinha have been given important jobs by the government. They need to fast track the roadmap for next year’s big multi-discipline Games abroad.

India’s performance at the Asian Games took a dip in 2014 Incheon after the highs in 2010 Guangzhou. Finally, it would not be a bad idea to go back to the build-up for the 2010 CWG in New Delhi where athletes were groomed the right way with right exposure, camps and funds at their disposal.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Last updated: February 12, 2017 | 11:56
Please log in
I agree with DailyO's privacy policy