Fading sports career: Lack of govt support makes it risky for youths

Sports

Except for cricket, all the other sports face lack of funding

Mohan Kumar is a 72-year-old former Indian football player who now works as a security guard at Mount Carmel College in Bengaluru. He had played in several international tournaments in the 1970s including South Korea, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. But due to lack of pension by the government, he was forced to work as a security guard after he retired.

“Several times, people from Karnataka State Football Association have come and taken my details and have made promises of pension but I still have not received any,” he shared. Even during the pandemic, Kumar was left with little savings and the college staff were the only ones to help him.

Many other sportspersons like Kumar are forced to change  professions due to the unpredictability and lack of government policies for retired sportspersons.

“It is a very hard decision to take for the young and aspiring athletes in India. Cricket is the only sport that receives regular funding. For others, it is a high-risk career and that is why people are still reluctant to consider sports as a career,” added Kumar.

The Observer tried reaching out to Karnataka State Football Association to follow up on Kumar’s statement, but they were unavailable.

The Union Youth Affairs and Sports Ministry had announced a lifelong monthly pension for athletes under the ‘Pension to Meritorious Sportspersons’ scheme in 2019. The ministry also announced that 627 sportspersons are getting lifelong monthly pensions ranging from Rs 12,000 to Rs 20,000 under the scheme. However, this scheme only covers athletes who have won medals in international tournaments.

Athletes and coaches also complain about the government not providing adequate facilities and infrastructure that is required for sports training.

Manoj Chopra, Asia’s strongest man, lives in Bengaluru in a small 1-BHK apartment and regularly gives motivational speeches in schools and prisons. Though his career in strength training is not yet over, Chopra wishes to train aspiring athletes.

“I have spoken in  nearly 7000 schools and colleges around the world. I have addressed around 40 million young people. I have been to several countries as a speaker but I have not seen the kind of talent that is found in India. The youth here is filled with talent and passion like nowhere else in the world… But still, we get only one or two medals. If the government supports it, then we can do a lot better. There is a lot of good talent in India”

Chopra added that he wants to give strength training to the youth but cannot as the equipments required can be costly.  “I cannot become a strength trainer without the government’s support as it requires expensive equipment and infrastructure. But there is almost no government funding for strength feats and powerlifting sports.”

Uncertainty in the sports field makes parents hesitant to allow their children to join sports.

Aakash Belugopal, a 23-year-old MBA student from Bengaluru, said: “I had played many national-level school football tournaments. I wanted to join the sport professionally but my parents were totally against it… Later, I also realized that there are a lot of struggles and chose to do MBA. I still play as  hobby but that’s it.”

Except for cricket, all the other sports federations in India struggle from lack of funding. A report by Live Mint mentioned that the funding of all sports federations combined would not even add up  to a quarter of cricket’s funding.

Recently, the Sports Authority of India had released a total of Rs. 7.22 crore as an out-of-pocket allowance for a total of 2,509 Khelo India athletes, during  January to March 2022.

saumyangi.y@iijnm.org

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