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What ails India’s sporting spirit?
It is time for a great nation like ours to set up our house in order as far as sports is concerned. The problem why we are not doing well at international level is not because we lack talent but because we have failed to groom them properly.
IT IS a country with the second highest population in the world. Its world FIFA ranking at present is 117. Its position among countries in the 2004 Olympics is 65. It is even behind countries like Zimbabwe, Latvia etc. Only five medals have been procured in the World’s most prestigious event since the country became independent. I think we all know the country we are talking about. It is our very own country- India. I guess that there are many people like me whose heart cry when they get to read such statistics.


When countries having lesser population than a state of our country are producing world champions, why is it that we are not able to do the same?


Of course, we have our heroes in Geet Sethi, Vishwanathan Anand, Vijay Amritraj, Leander Paes, Sania Mirza, Pankaj Advani and Sachin Tendulkar but they are few and far between. For a country as huge as ours, it is imperative that there is talent lying hidden in some remote corner of the country.


Why can’t we produce badminton players like the Indonesians and table tennis players like the Chinese? Let us take an objective look into the reasons for such a dismal state of sports in our country.


Lack of grassroots and junior level training programs:


Did you know that in Russia, coaches scout for swimming talent among three years old? Or for that matter gymnasts who are barely able to speak well. Why do they do it?


Monica Sales, the famous tennis player started playing the game at the age of three. Her coaches had recognised her talent early. These are like uncut diamond, waiting for proper guidance, grooming.
Whether it is basketball in USA or football in the UK, there are good training programs at the grassroots level. The competition even at the lowest level is very high and there are national selectors taking proper interest in identifying these traces of brilliance. And once selected, the government takes care of the financial and educational needs. This way the player is able to concentrate totally on his practice without having to worry about these trivial matters.


Such things are unheard of in our country. If there is any good football player in a remote corner of our country, chances of him making a mark for himself are distant. No wonder Indian parents lay total stress on education and do not encourage their wards to take up any sports seriously.


Poor facilities compared to world standards are another factor affecting our sports. We have all watched the World Cup Football for the last one month supporting Brazil and Argentina. And I hope that there will be many soccer lovers who would have marveled at the stadiums and the playing field in those parts of the World. Take any sports for that matter. Even our revered sport cricket. We have hardly three or four stadiums in this cricket mad country which can be compared with stadiums of the genre of a Melbourne or Lords.


Poor management of sporting bodies under the government is not hidden from anyone. It is very often said that if you are a Mumbaikar, then you have much better chance of getting into the Indian cricket team than if you are from Himachal Pradesh. When such an atmosphere prevails, it is very natural for players to get disheartened and leave the game. Take the case of our Indian Hockey Federation. We have read enough about the selection procedures of this esteemed body as players were picked and dropped as if we are making a random choice. Ask Dhanraj Pillai how it is to be a hockey player at the international level. The officials at CAB are more interested in their re-election than working for the betterment of the Bengal cricket.  


Over-indulgence in cricket is a major hurdle in way of other games promotion. It is okay for the country to be mad about cricket. However at the highest level policy makers must be reasonable and ensure that other sports are also given adequate support from their side.


Take the case of Koneru Humphy. She is the world junior champion in chess and also making waves in the sporting circuit. However such is the condition of sports in our country, two months back she did not have sponsors to help her in going to England for a chess tournament. It really hurts to see that other sportsperson in our country do not get the same amount of recognition as our cricketers not only from the common man but also from the authorities.


Our sports also suffer from lack of proper and disciplined guidance. Our players are not getting the proper kind of coaching facilities even at the highest level. To be a world class athlete, one needs proper goal oriented coaching with the best facilities and also appropriate food and body requirements. To be at the top, we need to have proper physical conditioning which will come through a balance of diet and exercise in a scientific manner. And most of all a very professional outlook as regards everything in this matter. It is because of this professionalism that a country like Australia is able to become a world leader in all kinds of sports, be it cricket, hockey and now even football. That same thing needs to replicated in our country


There is no reason why we will not be able to do it. If there can be one Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes and now Sania Mirza, we can surely produce someone in the future who will play in the Wimbledon Finals at centre court. Or for that matter a football team which will play the World Cup Finals alongside Italy, France, Brazil and Argentina. That day will surely be the fulfillment of one of our most cherished dreams.
But only dreams and wishes will not get us anywhere near these lofty goals. We have got to galvanize the entire process and start making progress in the right direction. It has to be a whole hearted effort on everybody’s part to turn such dreams into reality.


It is high time that the authorities make a firm and determined decision in this regard and start grooming young talents. With the right kind of attitude in its functioning and having a proper goal oriented disciplined approach , I am sure that India can also produce sportsman of the highest caliber and we can hope to have some of our long cherished dreams becoming true in the future.
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