Can We Ever Have A Sports Culture In India?




Sports Culture

Sports Culture

A country of a hundred million and one gold medal at the Olympics. Can one be proud of being a citizen of such a country? What does it speak of us as a people? Suffice it to say that Government run agencies in our country do not have the competitive edge at least when it comes to sport. Politicians run the Government and the Government agencies entrusted with running sports in our country, the Union Sports Ministry, the Sports Authority of India (SAI), Indian Olympic Association (IOA) are actually run by bureaucrats and not technocrats. The technocrats serving in these institutions either do not or cannot work up to there full potential under the stifling dominance of the former and at times become party to the corrupt ways of the ruling segment. Sports Coaches and Sports Technologists clearly do not have the final say. Vast funds are swindled regularly. The recent Commonwealth Games in Delhi is an example.

So much for the Government. What about us, the people? It is said the people get leaders they deserve. True, because they come from the society we have created sharing the same values that we hold dear. How much do we Indians love sport? Let us face the fact that India lacks sports culture. Sports are in fact at the bottom in the agenda of the average Indian householder. Most parents actively discourage even recreational sport for their kids as it might supposedly end up jeopardizing their academic performance. Bizarre logic but a popular conception. Sunday afternoon; we see kids struggling under the weight of their backpacks containing books holding hands of their parents going for a tuition class. No doubt our lopsided education policy that puts undue stress on them contributes generously to the scenario but we parents are only too eager to follow suit. Similarly, being a sports coach is considered infra dig in comparison to being an University lecturer though they both might be paid the same amount as salary (rare in the Indian context). This problem is deep rooted in the Indian psyche and then in our system. Education and Sports are usually seen as two different entities working at cross purposes than a part of growing up and character building. It is preposterous to think all kids playing will turn out to be Olympians but to deprive a kid of the opportunity of a recreational sport is to deprive a kid of his/her life breath. Why can’t we look at sports this way? All woes, almost everything that is wrong with Independent India is blamed as a legacy of the British who are long gone, but would it be wrong to suggest along with them we got rid of their sports culture? India, we say is a melting pot of cultures and we have a rich tradition of accepting all that is best. Why can’t we, for a change accept recreational sport for our children as a part of their growing up? I am sure that will not be considered as “aping the west”.

We do of course do take an abiding interest in a sport no self respecting sport power house like the USA, Russia, China or Germany takes seriously. From the drawing rooms of the super rich and the corporate boardrooms to the slums, the TV screens are constantly beaming live or recorded versions of a non-Olympic sport of questionable athleticism and is also the most enduring and endeared legacy of the British Raj. The British have wisely left the passion for the game for the subcontinent to cling to, ruminate, nurture, splurge, hype, modify, market, bet and scandalize on, culminating in the rise of the Lalit Modis, like the digestive tract does to its left overs. Corporates are falling over each other to sponsor it. Suffice it to say that in no other sport you hear of ball tampering. How much the Bollywood damsels owning teams and fraternizing with players and the Superstar who made a film on Hockey and put his money in the team of the Quixotic Knights have contributed to generate a sports culture in India is known to all.  Of course, we have indeed succeeded in creating a generation of couch potatoes. To deliberate further on this issue would be heresy in a country where this game has replaced other religions.

Can we the parents of kids make a beginning by allowing our kids who have a natural liking for games and sports to take part in recreational sports? Why cant we parents get together and form football leagues, hockey leagues, athletic and gymnastics clubs and on a recreational basis? It is not necessary to be a former sportsman of repute in a particular category to be able to start a recreational game for kids. One can glean enough and more information about such projects from the web and other sources. The only need is a change in the mindset and the will to do it, instead of cribbing about what the Government should do but does not do (and will never do). We can have a sports culture in India only if we the people want to.

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