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Why India can never be a sporting power

Most administration posts are ‘honorary’ in nature and since good people won’t work for free, this system rakes in sundry flotsam that have time to waste pretending to act as custodians of sport.

ht view Updated: Aug 10, 2014 10:26 IST
Sukhwant Basra
Sukhwant Basra
Hindustan Times
Indian sports,politics,administration

The Indian sports official is a particularly malignant parasite. The shady world of sports politics has nothing to do with the triumph of human spirit that champions embody on field. Instead, it is very much the habitat of the deal-making lowlife – the one with no scruples, loyalty and honour. No wonder, in this country, very few sportspeople stay involved past their playing careers. They may have bested the world but find it impossible to better the skulduggery that goes into jockeying for power.

Remember Prakash Padukone’s attempt at cleaning up badminton? He had to back off in disgust. Bowlers Venkatesh Prasad, Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble could not carry on beyond one term in the Karnataka cricket body as they stood for improvement instead of appeasement.

Raj Singh, secretary of the wrestling federation and Chef de Mission of the Indian contingent to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, had earlier fudged documents to prove he was below 60 so that he could avail financial benefits from the government to facilitate overseas travel. Despite this revelation by HT, his Glasgow jaunt was not affected.

Now, we again have papers proving Indian Olympic Association secretary-general Rajeev Mehta abused his position to take all kinds of acquaintances to Glasgow on official expense and accreditation. Apart from the tongue-lashing he gave his office staff for presumably leaking information to this paper, no reverberations have been felt in that body.

I believe that one of the primary reasons we do not have good sports administrators is the pettiness of the whole deal. If you are a state official involved in a sport other than cricket, there really isn’t much that comes your way apart from a measly junket abroad every few years or freebies like booze and sundry partying around election time. Your ‘Yahoo!’ moment would be when your child, uncle’s child and boss’ relative have all managed to get national participation certificates and therefore a relatively easy entry into a professional college through the sports quota.

Most administration posts are ‘honorary’ in nature and since good people won’t work for free, this system rakes in sundry flotsam that have time to waste pretending to act as custodians of sport. Of course, they can get control of a sports arena and the people employed there to run their household errands. That seems to suffice for many.

At the national level, there is scope to make some money and, more importantly, hobnob with important people and build contacts who can further your business interests. But to stay important nationally, you have to cultivate a bunch of disparate characters who have managed to cling on and cultivate their fiefdoms across the country. That’s where the favour peddling begins.

That’s how the likes of Mehta can take their daughter’s school principal, some doctors and bureaucrats from Uttarakhand along for a joyride to the Commonwealth Games. He’d called in his cache of IOUs.

Till the time the scourge of this obscene officialdom is reined in, India can never be a sporting power. It is not in the interest of this lot that sportsmen prosper. I was shocked when the top honcho of a federation actually told me over drinks that they don’t want any world-class players to emerge as then those guys become too big for them to control! Now, that has to be the lowest low.

Caveat: The piece above speaks of the majority of sports administrators. There are still some who trudge on for the love of the sport, but that tribe is fast dwindling and almost extinct.

First Published: Aug 10, 2014 10:18 IST