India's Failure to Nurture Sporting Brilliance: Are we to blame too?
Following any major sporting event in which the Indian contingent has failed to impress, it is usual to see hundreds of articles doing the rounds online blaming the corrupt sports authority or the lack of sports infrastructure for the dismal performance. There is absolutely no doubt in the fact that sports authorities in India are mismanaged with only one sports association in India having a former national athlete as a president, and that there lacks a well-built system to identify and nurture athletes throughout the country. However, we have seen some form of progress with the current union sports minister being a former Olympian, resulting in increased investment in various sports from private entities. Although these are perfectly justified concerns which need to be addressed, there is one concern which is often left undiscussed- the common Indian sports fan.
Among the countless Indian sports fans, there exists a burning desire to cheer for their favourite Indian Premier League team (Cricket) or for some, their favourite Indian Super League team (Football). Unfortunately, a majority of these ‘sports fans’ are completely against the idea of their kids taking up sports as a career choice, highlighting the lack of a sports culture in the country. In this country, sports is seen as a mere form of entertainment or a hobby, with hardly any emphasis on it being a career. This is a key reason for the lack of local leagues, which are as essential to the long-term development of sports in the nation. Over the past couple of years, there has been a slow yet essential change in mindset resulting in more people taking up sports seriously.
Interestingly, one reason which contributes to this issue is the outlook of a majority of Indian Sports fans. These fans only appear to follow high-profile tournaments, often only to show their outrage at defeat or exuberantly celebrating victory with the sport itself hardly mattering to them. Their absolute lack of interest in times when a podium finish is not in stake for India undermines the stature of the sport. This very lack of interest has its own consequences as it fails to force a change in the obvious inefficiencies in our sports administration. Agreed that, there have been instances wherein people have made their voice heard such as when OP Jaisha, an Indian marathon runner was ‘not provided with water’ at Rio or when Dipa Karmakar’s request for her physio to accompany her was deemed ‘wasteful’. However, if these were to happen at a national level, no one would have bothered. Moreover, issues such as these are raised for a week or two before everyone forgets about it with people not even being concerned about sport till the next big event comes along. The onus to change this is partially upon us, the sports fans, and partially on the media itself which has the responsibility to highlight many more such incidents which undoubtedly continue to take place.
This lack of continuous support for various sports by the public allows inefficiencies and corruption to plague the nation’s sporting scene. Obviously, there are larger concerns to be addressed too for India to develop into a sporting powerhouse, but it is equally important to acknowledge the sports fans’ contribution in the nation’s failures thus far and make a conscious effort to reverse it.