On Sportspersons' Day
Political patronage can be demonstrated even if the politicians are out of the sports bodies
Seram Neken *
Children participating in Yaosang Sports at Lalambung on March 2013 :: Pix - Jinendra Maibam
On the Sportspersons' Day today, the Voiceless Speaks congratulates all the players of Manipur for their ceaseless efforts in brightening the glory of their motherland. Indeed, sportspersons are the true patriots, who earn the admiration for their nation at the cost of their blood and sweat. The people of Manipur need to uphold and support the budding sports boys and girls for a brighter and admired Manipur.
In the beginning, sports management was solely done by a few sports lovers who dedicated their lives for promotion of sports in Manipur. They prepared the playing fields, arranged their own equipment, played in the field, organized other players, taught the youngsters and thus worked day and night only to nurture sports.
Even in the absence of trained coach, equipment and proper playground, the players of yore could come up to the national levels only because of their sporting spirit. Most known players acquired the games skills through the sports journals and magazines. The players barring their communal differences, social status and wealth loved and supported one another in achieving their ends.
They were nurtured only with spirit and discipline. It is heartening that Manipur sportspersons of 1940s, 1950s and 1960s represented the Assam State in showing off their excellence, as Manipur was at that time not a full-fledged state.
After Manipur got statehood in 1972, players of the state proudly participated in the national events representing their own motherland. The dedication, sacrifice and hard-work of eminent sports lovers of Manipur have now resulted in making Manipur the powerhouse of sportspersons. Those days are gone today.
Nowadays, a number of politicians, bureaucrats and wealthy people have made efforts to occupy important berths in sports bodies, no matter whether they actually had a taste of games in the field. Even the high profile politicians including ministers and MLAs have maneuvered to hold important positions in the sports Associations. Such a growing contest among the powerful people for various posts in sports organizations has apparently spoiled the true sporting spirit inherent in our players.
What have attracted our politicians, contractors and bureaucrats in the sports arena ? First, it is very obvious that a position in sports management increases respect and command in the society. Second, sports management nowadays involves huge amount of money. Third, travelling abroad is a routine affaire. Fourth, it is likely that politicians and bureaucrats may retain their social status by remaining in sports bodies even after their retirement from politics or office.
In a recent speech during the launching of National Youth Policy 2014, the Gandhi scion and Congress Vice president Rahul Gandhi expressed opinion that sports persons should manage the sports in the country and politicians should avoid undue interference in sports management. His words are highly relevant in the context of Manipur, where a number of Ministers and MLAs are in the fray for sports bodies like the Manipur Olympic Associations.
Political patronage can be demonstrated even if the politicians are outside the sports bodies. Churachand Maharaj of Manipur who paid the highest royal patronage in games and sports was actually in the field playing Hockey, Football, Badminton, Tennis, Polo etc.
Maharaj Bodhachandra also followed suit with Hockey sticks and Tennis racquets. What about the Manipur politicians of today, who are vying for berths in sports organizations without even knowing the ABC of the games?
Manipur is extraordinary in sports. In spite of being a small and neglected border state of India, Manipur has produced numerous Olympians, World Cuppers, Arjuna Awardees and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardees etc. A number of sports persons of Manipur represent other states of India and the services sector due to apathy of the state government to its players.
In the 34th Indian National Games, 35 Manipuri players won medals for Services Board, 17 of them won medals for Jharkhand, 11 for Delhi, six for Kerala, 34 for Madhya Pradesh, two for Uttar Pradesh, one for Karnataka, two for Andhra Pradesh, 21 for Assam, two for Orissa and one for Bihar. Manipur is a treasure of the country in terms of storing sports talents.
In spite of so many achievements, sports sector is yet to be given required attention by the state government. As learnt from experiences, the small and rough playfields seen in the various localities of Manipur have groomed up the reputed players of the state. The poor and unequipped local clubs have produced and nurtured the world-famous players of Manipur.
The state sports department needs to pay attention towards improving the existing local playgrounds in the villages of Manipur. These are the real platforms for hunting the sporting talents of young boys and girls. Priority must be given towards saving the local playgrounds and promoting local sports meets involving the young people of Manipur.
* Seram Neken wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao as part of 'The Voiceless Speaks'
This article was posted on February 26, 2014.
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