Are you surprised that we do have a day dedicated for sports?! Various sporting events are being organised across the country as part of the National Sports Day celebration to commemorate the birth anniversary of Indian hockey legend Dhyan Chand. This is a welcome change as compared to our favourite blame game that we begin every time India fares sadly in a major sporting event – government is not doing its job, sports officials are corrupt, athletes don’t have killer instincts, parents don’t care about sports in schools, etc, etc. However, we forget to ask the key question behind all these problems: Do we have a sporting culture?
Devangini M, well known art & luxury consultant and an army wife says, “In a cricket crazy country, I was born to a Ranji Trophy cricketer who also toured across Europe for the Kuwaiti Cricket Team and retired as the Secretary of the Veteran’s Cricket Association of Orissa. My father, Dev Mahapatra, remained high on sports, which ensured that my family was well exposed to sports early on. In fact, growing up, I found it strange that many of my classmates in school had absolutely no interest in sports! Sports, while an integral part of a school curriculum, has failed to show up in actual interest among children.”
That brings up the question: Why does our country lack such a sporting culture?
Sunny Bond from the Sports Coaching Foundation aptly put it this way, “The problem is deep rooted in the Indian psyche. Education and Sports are usually seen as two different entities working at cross purposes than as a part of growing up. It is preposterous to think all kids who play will turn out to be Olympians. Almost everything that is wrong with Independent India is blamed as a legacy of the British, but would it be wrong to suggest along with them we got rid of their sports culture? India, is said to be 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?”
Sunny asks another crucial question “Why the government agencies entrusted with managing sports in our country, the Sports Authority of India, Indian Olympic Association are all run by politicians and bureaucrats, and not by technocrats or sportspersons? The technocrats serving under the stifling dominance of politicians cannot work up to their full potential, and at times become party to the corrupt ways. Vast funds are swindled regularly. The recent 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi is a classic example of the rot that has set in.”
C S Thapa, a retired brigadier feels the recent International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban Indian Olympic Association for untoward practices is a step in the right direction, but this is not the only issue that ails Indian sports. There are a host of problems that can be summarised in one short word: lack of sporting culture. India favours rote learning which is repeated memorisation of written text where sports has no value. Although rote learning has made India into a knowledge hub, it has cut down our critical thinking and value for sports.
Thankfully, things are changing both on the institutional front as well as performance front. The Marks for Sports Campaign by NDTV India is playing a great role in ensuring sports becomes a part of school curriculum. The splendid feat achieved by our athletes at 2012 London Olympics seems to have turned the tide. Similarly, a series of outstanding performances have aroused public interest in sports other than cricket.
- 2011 FIBA Asia Championship – Indian women’s basketball team led by Geethu Anna Jose earn their best result, finishing at the 6th position
- 2012 Olympic Games – most successful Olympics with a total medal tally of 6 medals
- 2013 Junior Women Hockey World Cup – Indian women’s team wins first ever bronze medal powered by Rani Rampal’s splendid goals
- 2013 World Badminton Championships – Rising shuttler PV Sindhu becomes the first Indian woman singles player to win a bronze medal, while Parupalli Kashyap reach the quarterfinals and rises to No.7 on the BWF men’s singles ranking
- 2013 Archery World Cup – Indian team wins back-to-back World Cup titles in the women’s recurve team event
Numerous sports marketing companies are entering the Indian market to nurture talent and promote sports. However, despite these achievements, the immense focus on cricket overshadows all other sports. The overwhelming attention cricket gets among sports marketing companies makes it even tougher for emerging talents of non-cricket sports to grab eyeballs.
Suhrid Barua, a respected sports columnist says “The year 2013 is expected to be the turning point for sports marketing in other sports. The Hockey India League was a smashing hit with two-wheeler giant Hero Motors Corp solidly backing the league. The sight of hockey players having sponsorship logos embossed on their shirts and shorts was a never-before-seen kind of thing for hockey buffs in the country. Clearly, the sporting heroes of non-cricket sports have a lot to look forward to. The Badminton Association of India has already launched the inaugural Indian Badminton League, while the Wrestling Federation of India will be holding the Indian Wrestling League later this year.”
Hopefully, we will see sports marketing in India scale a new high in the coming years, given the phenomenal performances of athletes from various sports.