[ Tongam Rina ]
Recently, seven students of the Sangay Lhaden Sports Academy (SLSA), the premier sports academy which has trained some of the finest players of Arunachal, were rusticated. The news was that the students had stolen two packets of Maggi noodles, but the SLSA came forward to say that it was not a case of theft of just two packets of Maggi but cartons of it, besides other items, from the canteen.
Stealing is a crime, and the students deserved to undergo disciplinary action; but rusticating them from the school for stealing food is difficult to comprehend and accept. Why would children steal food unless they are hungry? There is more than what has been revealed.
The SLSA has produced many national level players, and some players have represented the country at the international level. But, of late, it’s in the news not because of sporting achievements but because of Maggi noodles, administrative lapses, and lack of facilities.
In June 2018, the then sports minister, Dr Mohesh Chai, had visited the school and also its kitchen, which he said was in a pathetic condition. He had called for disciplinary action against the cook, saying the kitchen was so dirty that it posed a threat to the health of the students.
The responsibility of keeping the kitchen hygienic is with the cooks and the canteen management, as well the school administration. And what about the quality and quantity of food?
“There is fund for food, but how much is actually spent on the players is something that only the sports department and the academy know,” said a sports official.
The official said that the food requirement of sportspersons is much higher, and the students of the academy are mostly teenagers – of an age when their appetite for food is more. The official also said that the students are being punished because of the failure of the sports administration as there have been a number of cases of indiscipline in the last couple of years.
The students train hard, and when they fail to bring results, some students don’t know how to deal with it. In the absence of dedicated wardens and psychologists, it’s often hard for the players to cope with the pressure, which sometimes leads to behaviour that is not acceptable.
It is for the SLSA and the sports department to figure out what has to be done to make the school better. Perhaps the first step should be to ensure that there is enough food for the students. The school is yet to produce an Olympian, and the blame has been put on the lack of facilities in the academy.
Experts say that one of the many reasons that the academy has not lived up to its reputation is because it is till the secondary level. Unless they excel, the athletes are not trained after Class 10; so they have to look for other schools. Five years of training is not enough in sports, they say.
In most sports, players peak when they are between the ages of 18 and 30. But in the case of the SLSA, most players have to leave the academy after Class 10, as there is no further scope to train.
The state government had announced in 2017 that the school would be upgraded to Class 12, but it has ended up as yet another fake promise.
Enough has been reported in the media following the rustication of the seven students. The reason given by the SLSA is certainly not justified. Maybe it’s time for the SLSA authorities and the sports department to sit down and figure out a way to correct the wrongs.
The future of the SLSA seems rather bleak, so it is time for serious intervention by the department and the government. The department needs to look back on why the SLSA was established in the first place.
The academy needs to hire specialists from various fields, such as administrators, physiotherapists, psychologists, counsellors, coaches and wardens to restart its quest. Moreover, whatever little funds are provided by the government need to be spent well and judiciously. Why should our budding sportspersons be fed Maggi noodles when there are healthier food options?
Perhaps the sports minister, the sports director and the school’s principal can start by cleaning the kitchen and also reading up the health benefits of Maggi noodles.