Majority of the sportspersons in India — the successful ones too, reiterate that they have achieved in spite of the system. So naturally, secretly everyone wishes that the system be rectified and upgraded.
The sports fraternity has welcomed the effort on part of Ajay Maken, Union Sports Minister, in putting forth a progressive sports bill that hopes to systemically improve the sports administration in our country.
The bill looks to bring about professionalism and transparency in the sports system. The working of the National Sports Federations (NSF) will be more streamlined and they enjoy necessary autonomy without infringement and control. A provision for a redressal and dispute settlement system for athletes has been suggested, 25 percent representation by athletes in the executive bodies, age limitation and limited tenure for the office bearers of the NSF etc. are some of the highlights of the bill.
With the revised National Sports Development Bill, hope floats.
And this time that hope is vocal. Champions past and present including PT Usha, Pankaj Advani, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Prakash Padukone, Vijender Singh, Abhinav Bindra and many more, have voiced their strong support for the bill.
So why are the sportspersons so keen on the bill? Let me tell you some anecdotes. Please excuse me for not taking names but I feel that is not important here.
This athlete had qualified for the World Championships. The NSF dragged their feet with the travel formalities and now there were no tickets available for the athlete to travel for the tournament. The Federation Secretary actually fell at the feet of the airline official and managed to get a seat on the flight. So as the secretary ‘grounded’ himself, the athlete could fly.
Selection tournaments were held to select a team for a foreign tour. The players qualified were not as per the ‘liking’ of the NSF. So they announced that the National Championships would be considered instead. Again the players that qualified were not ‘liked’. Well, stubborn as the NSF can be, selection trials were announced. And voila, we had a team that was ‘liked’!
National camps are mandatory. The facilities provided, we all know, were sometimes sub-standard. But what do you do when the equipment was missing? It’s like having a knife and fork but no food.
An international tournament was in progress. The athlete had a match the following day so he decided to go to the stadium to watch some others play. While he was watching, he heard his name on the loudspeaker. His match was being announced. He was stunned. Now he did not have his playing kit nor time to get it from the hotel so he had to award a walkover. Apparently, the match had been preponed and the team manager forgot to inform him.
Once an athlete reached Germany. His name did not appear in the tournament draw. Upon snooping around a bit, he discovered that his NSF had sent his entry after the entry closing date and hence it was not accepted.
This athlete was selected for a prestigious event. He was told to shell out a certain amount of money towards expenses to make the trip. The letter from the NSF stated that these expenses would be reimbursed after the trip. The reimbursement cheque is still in the mail.
I’m sure there are innumerable such stories for each athlete to narrate. These are just a few of those that have led to the frustration of athletes in India.
I agree that the sole blame cannot be put on the NSFs for the non-performance of the players. It’s the entire system that is impacting their performances. Therefore, the inefficiency, unreliability and callous and indifferent attitude of the system needs to be done away with.
The bill promises to ensure just that. Overall, it is a thoughtful step in the right direction. A much needed one at that.