Untold stories of sportspersons and associations

Monday Musing

[ M Doley ]

We feel so proud of our athletes when they win on big stages and bring glory to the state and the nation.

In the recent past, the athletes of the state stole the limelight with their impressive performance at national level championships – but not without struggle. They need support and recognition for further success in the future.

Although the government has stated time and again that it has accorded top priority to the sports sector, the ground level stories tell otherwise.

In Arunachal, the state level sports associations play a major role in ensuring participation of the athletes in various regional, national and international events. They have to manage all expenses, including the cost of the to-and-fro journey and food and accommodation for the players as they don’t get the money from the government on time.

The associations say that, although the government reimbursed the expenses, the reimbursement process takes a lot of time, even many years, due to ‘fund constraint’.

Since the associations don’t have their own sources of income, the officials of some the associations have to either invest from their own pockets or borrow from money lenders with a promise to return the amount with interest as fixed by the lenders. This has become a normal practice while sending sportspersons from Arunachal to compete in national, regional or international level events, except in government-sponsored events like the Khelo India programme.

The associations say that the government should allocate sufficient fund to the sports department, so that sports activities can be organised smoothly.

The poor state of affairs of the sportspersons can further be understood from the fact that in 2018, a father of an athlete had slaughtered his mithun and sold its meat to manage the required amount to ensure participation of his daughter at an Asian Karate Federation championship, which was held in Jordan.

Many players said that they have to manage expenditures on their own. Since the players are students without any source of income, their participation in such sports events completely depends upon their parents and relatives.

Apart from the financial issue, the other problem faced by the sports fraternity of the state is the lack of proper infrastructure to organise state or national championships.

In Arunachal, community halls and festival grounds like the Nikum Niya Hall and the Nyokum Lapang (Itanagar) are the venues for organising such sports events, particularly indoor sports events like weightlifting, karate, boxing, etc.

The organisers organise these events by constructing temporary tent houses. The state level boxing championships in Itanagar are generally organised at Ganga village and the Sangay Lhaden Sports Academy playground in makeshift rings.

A source informed that the then Nabam Tuki-led government had approved construction of a multipurpose indoor stadium with an estimated cost of Rs 33.5 crores. But the stadium continues to elude the sports fraternity of the state as successive governments have failed to fulfil the long-pending demand.

The other area that is often neglected or overlooked is the diet of the athletes. Food and nutrition play a key role in the performance of an athlete, apart from technical skills. Hence, there should be a proper policy to groom the talented players and ensure healthy and balanced diet for them.

Moreover, the government can provide incentives to the performing sports associations, which will boost their morale to work with renewed zeal and spirit for the welfare of the sportspersons, as well as for the development of the sports sector.

These are some of the primary needs that should be looked into. Otherwise, producing an Olympian from the state will remain a distant dream.