Talent pool and crumbling sports infrastructure

[M. Doley]

India, for the first time in its football history, organized the U-17 World Cup last month. Being a host country, the country got the chance to participate in it. Though the national team made an early exit, the World Cup will remain memorable for the people of the country, especially North East as a player from Manipur scripted history by scoring the first World Cup goal for the country against Colombia.
Manipur, known as power house of sports in India, has so far produced several Olympians, 18 Arujuna awardees and more than 1000 athletes, who have represented the country at various national and international level sports competitions.
On Friday, Indian Olympic Association Vice President BP Baishya said North East is a major contributor to the field of games and sports in the country. The region has immense in-born talents in its youth.
The entire country was taken to surprise, when little known football club from Mizoram, Aizawl FC won the I-League in April this year.
Now, let us take a quick look at the sports scenario of Arunachal Pradesh.
The sportspersons in Arunachal Pradesh perform exceptionally well at junior level. But, their performance goes down gradually after they graduate from junior to senior level.
For example, weightlifers of the state, who are training at the Army Sports Institute, have been performing well because of the fact that they are receiving good coaching under the strict guidance of the Indian Army.
The karate players are also consistently performing because of the karate clubs run by few individuals interested in the sports, where regular coaching and training are provided to them. Likewise, few badminton players and boxers too are performing well at junior level, thanks to the constant efforts made by the concern associations.
The factors affecting the performance of the players at senior level can be attributed to lack of coaches, infrastructure and sports equipment. The players do not get the required coaching and training facilities at their pick age to maintain consistency in their performance.
Not to talk about a multipurpose indoor stadium, there is still not a single football stadium of national standard in entire Capital Complex. Community and cultural halls are serving as the indoor sports stadium, where events, like weightlifting, karate, taekwondo, etc are conducted.
Apart from infrastructure, there are no sufficient trained coaches.
The role of coach is not just coaching. Coaches play multiple roles. They play the role of guide, motivator, adviser, supporter, counsellor, organizer, planner and teacher for the sportspersons.
Hence, appointment of trained coach as per requirement is a must to see development of games and sports in Arunachal.
The silver lining is the government has recently accorded approval for creation of 100 coaches’ job.
This author met several persons involved with the state’s sports to seek their opinions regarding current status of sports and functioning of sports sector in the state.
They were unanimous in blaming the higher authority for poor planning which reflected in ‘disproportionate’ allocation of fund under SADA this year for conduct of sports events.
The government has allocated Rs 1.20 crore for conducting a marathon race, whereas Rs 1 crore only has been given to Arunachal Olympic Association to conduct the just concluded three days second State Olympic Games, rued AOA Secretary General Abraham K Techi.
Meagre allocation of fund compelled us to exclude some sports discipline from the Games, he said, and urged the government to introspect.
Around 2000 athletes including officials from across the state participated in 11 sports discipline in the three-day Games.
Arunachal Pradesh Football Association General Secretary Kipa Ajay said, “While Rs 5 crore has been allocated for the state level Hangpan Dada Memorial Football and Volleyball Tournament, a naught has been given to Arunachal Pradesh Football Association (APFA) to conduct the on-going Arunachal Football Super League.”
“Meghalaya Government has adopted an ambitious five-year plan for development of football in state, where Rs 560 cr will be spent. The Government has provided Rs 114 crore in the first instalment for creation of infrastructure, Rs 1.37 crore for conducting the state football league and Rs 75 lakh for grassroots programme. Rs 65 lakh per year will be kept for coaches,” the APFA General Secretary said.
Arunachal won bronze medals in the 7th National Dr T Ao Football in 2016 and National Sports Competition held in Itanagar in 2014-15, and reached the semi finals four times in U-19 BC Roi Football Trophy with resources available with it, he said.
It is pertinent to mention here that the highest performance by any athlete in the state in track and field event so far is a bronze medal in 3000 metre race won by sprinter Anung Wangsa in the 29th East Zone Junior Athletic Championship, which was held in Kolkata in September this year.