'Hum toh shadow bangaye': Boxer Manoj Kumar's coach Rajesh Kumar Rajound on Dronacharya snub
After being snubbed for the Dronacharya, two-time Olympian Manoj Kumar's brother, Rajesh Kumar Rajound, said: 'Gareeb aadmi ke liye sirf samaan hi sab kuch hota hai.'
In 2014, boxer Manoj Kumar had to knock on the doors of the Delhi High Court to get himself an Arjuna Award. Though he was eligible for the prestigious award, Manoj’s name had been omitted from the list because the committee had mistaken him for another boxer by the same name, who had been caught doping.
At that time, standing in Manoj’s corner was his brother, and his early coach, Rajesh Kumar Rajound.
Six years on, Manoj finds himself in a similar position, albeit with a role reversal: this time Rajesh has been left off the Dronacharya Awards list.
A dejected Manoj, who is a two-time Olympian and a two-time Commonwealth Games medallist (including gold at the 2010 New Delhi CWG), told Firstpost they had previously applied for the Dronacharya Award for his brother twice, but this was the first time they were applying in the lifetime category.
After the initial list okayed by the committee was revealed, Manoj wrote an email to sports minister Kiren Rijiju, along with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and the sports secretary, on 20 August expressing his shock at the decision.
“When you became sports minister we had full hope that nothing wrong will happen now and my coach Rajesh Kumar Rajound will be awarded for all his hard work and struggle but all our hopes are shattered once again and my whole family is in huge shock (sic),” wrote Manoj in the email (a copy of which is with Firstpost).
Over the past few days, both brothers have launched an impassioned social media campaign to set right what they believe is injustice, even enlisting the help of Beijing Olympic bronze medallist boxer Vijender Singh and actor Randeep Hooda.
In the recommendations, the Justice (retd) Mukundakam Sharma-led selection committee sent 13 names of coaches to the Sports Ministry, including eight names in the lifetime category.
In his application, besides Manoj, Rajesh has named 17 players who have at least made it to the Nationals. This includes Saweety Boora, who won silver at the 2014 AIBA Boxing World Championships.
Rajesh said that it was because of him that Manoj became a boxer after quitting athletics at a young age. “Manoj used to do athletics when he was younger. I converted him into a boxer in 1998 after seeing his talent. I used to show him Leander Paes’ photo from when he had won bronze at Atlanta in 1996 to inspire him to work harder.
“Tab se din dekha na raat dekha (from then on we didn’t care about day or night). From brothers, we became guru-shishya. And then when Manoj started doing well, I realised he will need a sparring partner as good as him, so I asked my other brother, Mukesh, to quit judo and become a boxer in 2000,” said Rajesh.
Question him about how he could be his brother’s coach, and he points to past instances of people being awarded Dronacharya for coaching their spouses.
“Some guys like these get awards because the media keeps highlighting them, showing their athletes. I’m not against anyone winning it. But if coaches like us don’t unearth and train players in the basics at the grassroots level, who will these national coaches train at national camps?” he asked before saying, “Hum toh shadow bangaye (People like me have been relegated to the background).”
After being shunned three times, will apply again next year? There was a pause as he contemplated the question. “From the boxers I am training currently, I believe I have three boxers. Manoj ki tarah lambi race ke ghode hain woh. Meri hope hain woh (They’re as promising as Manoj. They’re the ones I’m pinning my hopes on). I believe they can compete at the 2024 Olympics,” he said.
On being asked if he would follow the legal path as well, Rajesh paused. Like a boxing coach not wanting to reveal too much of his strategy, he said he would be consulting with his “advocate friends” and then making a decision.
“Gareeb aadmi ke liye sirf samaan hi sab kuch hota hai (For a poor man, honour is everything.) If people like us keep getting relegated to the background, then who would want to take up sports?” he asked.
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