Utpal Borpujari

June 23, 2010

Former Sportstars to clean up political dust in sports

By Utpal Borpujari

After Union Sports Minister M S Gill, the never-retiring politician heads of sports bodies now have one more opponent to contend with.

A bunch of former top sportspersons who have earned laurels for India in the international arena, have joined hands to form Clean Sports India, a forum to take on politicians like Suresh Kalmadi and Vijay Kumar Malhotra who they allege are misusing the principles of autonomy of the Olympic Movement for their personal ends.

Former Olympians like hockey star Pargat Singh, athletes Sriram Singh, Vandana Rao, Ashwini Nachappa and Vandana Shanbag as well as former international athletes Reeth Abraham, Bhogeshwar Barua and Sunita Godara and footballer Tashen Borah are part of the initiative.

While the initiative will be formally announced on Wednesday, the International Olympic Day, in Delhi, those behind Clean Sports India told Deccan Herald that the preparations to form such a body with former sportspersons had been going on for quite some time.

As a first step towards taking on the politician lobby, these athletes have sent an open letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge, stating that using the ruse of the Olympic movement’s autonomy, the politicians heading sports bodies had been “fooling” the nation.

“They remind the Indian sports fraternity time and again that if this ‘autonomy’ of sports bodies is threatened, India will be banned from International Olympic Movement whereas the same Olympic bodies are heavily interlinked to the political systems and state power. They have been fooling the nation with this fairy tale for decades to run the Indian sport like their fiefdom,” the letter says.

The former sports stars have also alleged that elections to sports bodies are manipulated by politicians, civil servants, military officials and businessmen using the state power and money.

“Over a period of time, sports politicians made elections of sports bodies a mockery of democracy. Most of the times they get elected unanimously as no one even dares to file a nomination,” they have said, adding that no former sportsperson in India could hope to head a sports body.

The letter has also been signed by actor and sports writer-commentator Tom Alter and equestrian sports personality and former civil servant B V P Rao.

Rao told Deccan Herald that while current sports personalities were fully supportive of the idea, Clean Sports India had made it a point not to directly involve them in the movement as they be victimized by their associations if they did so.

“Indian sport has become victim of power, corruption and mismanagement for decades. No wonder India with over a billion population could win only one individual Olympic gold medal so far. That speaks volumes about the governance of Indian sports by politicians and other non sports persons,” the former sportspersons have told Rogge.

They agree that sportspersons have also been at fault for not asserting their rights, and say they have plans to take up activities like sports runs, discussions, seminars, etc., to educate the people to create public opinion against the mismanagement of sports by non-sports persons.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 23-06-2010)


Young footballers hope to shine in South Africa

Filed under: Deccan Herald,Football,Media,Sport — Utpal Borpujari @ 3:00 pm
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By Utpal Borpujari

Fifteen-year-old Anto Xavier’s father works for a contractor in Bangalore, painting houses. His elder brother works as a salesman in a company while his younger sister is in school.

But Anto, 15, has much bigger plans for himself. He wants to be part of the Indian soccer team in 2014, when he says the country will reach the World Cup Finals.

His dream of seeing India in the next World Cup Finals may be quite far-fetched, but that of seeing himself don the India seniors jersey may not be.

A student of Bangalore’s Old Fort High School, Anto is already part of India’s Under-16 national team as a mid-fielder/defender and has every chance to become a member of the senior team in the near future.

Anto and 15 other kids like him, including Suhas Solur Narayanaswamy also from Karnataka, are on their way to the ongoing World Cup Finals in South Africa, as part of a Coca-Cola-sponsored All India Football Federation (AIFF) plan to give talented youngsters a feel of the big game atmosphere.

The Under-16 team, captained by Mizo lad Lalnunfela, will be watching the South Africa-Uruguay match on June 16 and after that will be in Pretoria to participate in a competition that will see teams of the same age group from various countries competing in a tournament aimed at nurturing young talent from the world over.

“I like football. I think football has a great future in our country and the South African tour will give us a big exposure,” Anto told Deccan Herald here on the eve of his departure for South Africa,

Suhas, 14, agrees. “I am sure India can play in the World Cup finals in the future, but it needs even more encouragement than now. Now only cricket gets all the encouragement from the people and the government. This kind of tour will help us a lot,” says Suhas, a student of DYSS Sports School in Bangalore’s Vidhya Nagar.

Suhas, unlike Anto, has football in his blood. His grandfather S T Thimmayah, he points out, had played for Karnataka, while his father, S T Narayanswami, had played club level football. “I want to play for India in the World Cup Finals,” is his slogan.

AIFF general secretary Alberto Colaco, who presented the team before the media at a felicitation event in the capital, said tournaments like the Coca-Cola Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy among schools from all over the country was proving to be a great help in unearthing talent from the grassroots level.

Some of such talents, such as Sukhpreet Singh from Gurdaspur, Budhraj Soren from Patna, Mohit Kumar Rana from Varanasi, Shobham Basnett from Sikkim, Constancio Manuel Rodrigues from Goa, Ijasali Kunnan from Moorkanadu and Rupart Lamlang Mongrum from Shillong, are part of the U-16 team going to South Africa.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 15-06-2010)


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