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A nation of spoilsports

Sports in India is administered by officials who have no understanding of sports.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2010 23:01 IST

It’s not been a week since the frustrations of India’s hockey players made the front page. A scampering bid to contain the embarrassment was made by the national sporting body, Hockey India. That the very people entrusted with the job of ensuring that our hockey players were provided the right incentives — both professional and remunerative, something that sporting bodies in any other country consider to be fundamentally entwined — had done just the opposite, was for all to see. A quick-fix band-aid was applied to make the humiliated hockey players parade with smiles before the media, with Hockey India chief

A.K. Mattoo quitting a few days later. With that chapter not closed, on Saturday, India’s Olympic gold medal-winning shooter told this newspaper how sporting authorities in this country really look at their sportspeople: with contempt.

Sports in India is overwhelmingly administered by a bevy of officials who don’t understand sports in general or the particular sport they are in charge of fostering and encouraging. Barring the anomaly of cricket, these mandarins have the mindset of professional file-pushers who perpetuate a philosophy that has held the country back far beyond the sporting arena for decades. Just when we thought that India was becoming more professional, looking for results rather than remaining a slave to regulations and petty powerplay,

Mr Bindra has highlighted this potent mix of bureaucratic tyranny and apathy. This potent cocktail has killed off far too many sporting talents — both those who were yet to reach their potential and those already having made their mark.

Mr Bindra knows a thing or two about training to win international medals. So to pull him out mid-training for attending trials is bureaucratic behaviour at its worst. To add insult to injury, the trials were summarily postponed without him being informed about when he needs to be present again.

Mr Bindra has been lucky. Despite — rather than because of — governmental efforts, he has managed to be a world-winner, having been able to support his passion and discipline to maximise his innate skills. But he is the rare exception. People like markswoman Suma Shirur, left out of the squad despite being a world champion, need answers. Other shooters who were selected some six months before the final selection process point to the flip side of the same story. As do four wrestlers — G.S. Dhillon, Ronjan Sodhi, R.V.S. Rathore and Mansher Singh — who have been training for the Commonwealth Games by turning out money from their own pockets. India does not value sports. And by ‘India’ we mean the entity that spreads its many tentacles in all those sporting bodies for the sole purpose of keeping so many, too many, of our sportspeople down, and out.