For Cuban boxing coach, BI Fernandez, India has been a home away from home for nearly two decades. And, the sports ministry is on the verge of rewarding him for his services to Indian boxing, recommending him for the highest award for coaches — the Dronacharya — on Tuesday.
The ministry's move may not go down well with home-bred coaches, who have felt the Dronacharya is their birthright, but it certainly will give a fillip to Indian sports and boost the morale of foreign coaches who work tirelessly behind the scene.
Ministry sources said Fernandez's name had been recommended as he had shaped the country's boxing dreams at two successive Olympic Games — Beijing (2008) and London (2012).
"Two successive bronze medals at the Games and the promise the youngsters hold out for Rio (2016) was the main reason for the ministry recommending the Cuban's name for the Drona," said a ministry official on condition of anonymity.
Winds of change
Going by the number of foreign experts who are behind India's success story on the international stage, it is a matter of time before coaches and trainers in other sports disciplines too start getting the prestigious award.
The ministry might have guarded the traditional bastion for long, but with the growing demand for excellence in sport, rewarding foreign coaches has become the need of the hour. The ministry source alluded to this and added that Indian coaches will now have to perform to stake claim to the Drona.
The panel, headed by hockey Olympian Aslam Sher Khan, has also reportedly recommended the names of five other coaches --- Virender Poonia, husband and coach of discus thrower Krishna Poonia; Yashvir Singh (wrestling), Sunil Dabas (kabaddi), Jasvinder Singh Bhatia (athletics) and Bhawani Mukherjee (table tennis).
While Yashvir's recommendation is on expected lines as he is behind the success of double Olympic medallist, Sushil Kumar, female kabaddi coach Sunil Dabas' name has come as a surprise, as her contribution to the sport is hardly known even within the playing circles.