By Vijay Darda | 09-08-2021
Athletes who came from humble backgrounds have brought laurels to the country, untold hardships notwithstanding
Crores of Indians were thrilled when the tune of ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was playing in the Tokyo Olympics stadium and its echo was being heard all over the world. The reason for this pride was Neeraj Chopra who made Mother India proud by his spectacular achievement, winning gold medal in javelin throw. The vibrant young India erupted in joy and celebration, hailing the champion amidst gaiety and gusto, as if Neeraj Chopra had returned after winning a world war! It felt as if every Indian’s heart was singing ‘Neeraj Chopra tujhe salaam, PV Sindhu tujhe salaam, Mirabai tujhe salaam, Punia tujhe salaam.’ A salute to you all our daughters! A salute to hockey, and a salute to hockey players! How many players’ names should I mention… A big salute to each and every player. A salute to those who could not win! A salute to the spirit of the game! A salute to the tricolour. O motherland, I salute you!
The festival of Rakshabandhan is round the corner and crores and crores of Indians have put forward their wrists. Neither caste or region nor religion is being seen. None is looking at the brand. They are seeing only one thing, tricolour, and listening to the tune of ‘Jana Gana Mana’. This is Hindustan. This is my India. There was a time when we were known only for hockey in Olympics games but times have changed and we are representing the country in almost all sports. I consider this as a good sign for the future. But we have to understand that many things are necessary for victory. All the athletes of Indian contingent who participated in this Olympics are people from humble backgrounds. They neither had anything to eat nor to drink, nor to cover, nor to wear. But they had passion. They had an intense desire to do something that took them to the Olympics. Mirabai Chanu did not have money to travel 25 km daily from her village to Imphal. She used to reach the academy riding on sand-laden trucks. After winning the Olympic medal, Chanu has felicitated truck drivers. I was watching a film on Saina Nehwal. Saina was born in a small village in Haryana but just see the spirit of her mother Usha Nehwal who despite being seven months pregnant, went to play in the local competition. Saina was in her tummy. Saina was born. We also saw how she was humiliated. Saina was taken by her mother to Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy in Hyderabad by bus. Mother gave the racket and told Saina that she has to win the world. And the world saw the champion Saina. Similar is the story of Sindhu. How many tales should I tell you?
We have to understand that any country is recognised by its players, by its brave soldiers, by science and technology. It is not recognised by how many millionaires or trillionaires the country has. The country is definitely recognised by the contributions of those trillionaires. Yes, I believe that industry plays a pivotal role in giving jobs and it can play an important role in nurturing and developing the sports. The government will have to take them along. The government should have its own vision. Most of the medals that have been won till date have been won for top performance in hockey. That is now history and I do not want to repeat it; what transpired between ‘Magician’ Major Dhyan Chand and Hitler or other stories like that..!
Our history in the Olympics is 121 years old. There are several small countries which have won bags full of medals, so why can’t we? But the government has to play a vital role in achieving this transformation and this is what I said in Parliament in 2004. The government will have to formulate a comprehensive policy and strictly implement it. It should start with seven year olds. The government should take their responsibility. The identification of which child is worthy of which sport, their training, their diet, quality content of the game and mental strength of the highest level will have to be ensured. For this, the industry will have to be involved. If we integrate all these elements under one roof, we can dominate the sports arena the way we have become the uncrowned king in the field of IT software in the world. We have shown this in cricket. It is a different matter that cricket is the game of a handful of countries. It has no place in recognised sports. There was a time when we could even become masters in the hardware of IT. At that time, I had warned in the Parliament that time should not be lost, but we missed the bus. Today small countries like Taiwan hold hundreds of patents for IT hardware. We lagged behind. But now we should not waste time in the field of sports under any circumstances.
I am very happy that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has boosted the morale of the players. He is very passionate about sports. But when I think of what has been the contribution of our progressive state of Maharashtra, my head bows down. I would not like to repeat the old things as to what happened to Anjali Bhagwat? When she was going for the World Championships, questions were being asked like ‘what will you do by going there?’ She was tense till the last moment; whether she would get the licence for the pistol or not or whether she would be allowed to participate in the championships. Instead of encouraging her, people reduced her to tears. Such stories are galore all over the country.
This is just pathetic! The situation must be changed! The basic attitude of the Sports Authority of India should change! There should be a dedicated minister who should look after mentoring the sports persons only. He should not have any other work and he should have direct contact with the Prime Minister. If we can bring tribal children into the mainstream of the game, we will have no dearth of players but they will have to be protected from the glamour of cricket. I am not against cricket but don’t want other sports to be sacrificed for one game.
And yes, in the Olympics if I compare India with China or Japan, I will be disappointed. We are hopeful. We have the capability. All that we need is improvement in the sports ecosystem; we too can show our magic to the world.
The tune of ‘Jana Gana Mana’ should continue to resonate with the gold medal..!