Mumbai needs to rediscover its sporting ethos
For many decades, Mumbai was pre-eminent in providing athletes to represent the country in several Olympic disciplines, notably badminton, table tennis, shooting, tennis, hockey, athletic. That number has been dwindling every year, and is now reaching its nadirUpdated: Aug 31, 2018 17:11 IST
The ongoing Asian Games at Jakarta have been heartwarming for India. True, missing out on a gold medal in kabaddi (men’s and women’s) and hockey (men’s, as I write this) have been major setbacks, but overall the results have been impressive. India should be able to get a consolidated tally of 65 medals, and there is a strong likelihood that the number of gold will exceed 14. These stats represent India’s best performance, achieved in 2010 so there is much to feel good about.
However, this cannot mitigate the disappointment at the abysmally poor representation of Mumbai at the Asian Games. The most significant contribution from Mumbai at this Asiad is perhaps from Adille Sumariwalla, former sprint champion and currently head of Athletics Federation of India considering how well the country has done in track and field events!
In the Commonwealth Games in April this year at Gold Coast Down Under, Mumbai’s participation, as it were, was sparse. The few names that come to mind are Sanil Shetty and Pooja S (table tennis), Chirag Shetty (badminton), Suraj Karkera (Hockey), Vikram Malhotra (squash).
Add Madhuri Patkar (table tennis) from neighbouring Thane and possibly a couple of others whose names I could be missing, may swell the figure a bit, but not enough to assuage the distress: The number of athletes still remains paltry for a city of this population size and with such a glorious sporting legacy.
For many decades, Mumbai was pre-eminent in providing athletes to represent the country in several Olympic disciplines, notably badminton, table tennis, shooting, tennis, hockey, athletic. That number has been dwindling every year, and is now at its nadir.
From the Commonwealth Games till now, the slump has not only not been stopped, but unfortunately appears to have gotten worse. The only noteworthy Mumbaiite at these Asian Games, for instance, has been Ms Hema Deora, part of the mixed team for the bridge event.
This is not to take away any from Ms Deora’s achievement for hers is a stirring story in itself. Wife and mother of politicians in the family, she has climbed into eminence in bridge on her own steam, sustaining her interest for decades and gaining such expertise and reputation that when bridge was included as part of the Asiad, she couldn’t be left out. More pertinently, the mixed team of which Ms Deora is a part, won a bronze at the Asiad (in fact two bronzes were won by the squad), which has played no mean part in swelling India’s kitty of medals. I dare say too, this unexpected and belated twist in her life is an experience she is unlikely to ever forget!
But these happy happenstances cannot obviate how poorly Mumbai fares otherwise at the Asian Games. Where are other athletes of excellence who not only add lustre to Mumbai’s reputation, but will also be inspiration for forthcoming generations? The erosion in Mumbai’s sporting ethos — barring to some extent cricket — is a serious issue that needs to be addressed urgently.
One hardly need spell out the benefits that accrue to individual, community and city from sport. The absence of sporting pursuit, therefore, obviously portends a crisis.
This needs to be tackled on several fronts, at different levels of engagement, and urgently. It is imperative that sports should be a compulsory part of the education curriculum in schools (particularly) and even perhaps college, with several incentives, like extra marks for sporting excellence, thrown in. Sport should also be encouraged at a community level for all age groups, and become a mandatory part of all health programmes. This should be done in municipal and state as well as private institutions.
Essentially, Mumbai needs to rediscover what’s lost: its mojo for sport.
First Published: Aug 31, 2018 01:47 IST