“We have Asian Games now and then World Championship is also approaching but things still stand where it was before. Food quality (at training Centres) has got better but lot of things need to be changed,” says wrestler Vinesh Phogat ahead of the Asian Games.

The 23-year old Vinesh from Haryana won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games 2018. But the more she is prepping to make the country proud on international levels, the more disappointed she is. She is currently putting up gloves for the upcoming 18th Asian Games at Jakarta and Palembang from the 18th August. Talking about Olympics or likewise tours she things, “If you want an Olympic medal, you have to provide matching facilities too. We train irrespective of the conditions but it affects recovery and becomes a cause of injuries. The wrestling hall (in Lucknow) was so hot even this time, despite being a rainy season.”

“We were sweating a lot and it affects your recovery. I started feeling pain in my knee. Sometimes there is no electricity. And I had to skip training sometimes. But what do we do?” Vinesh said

“Federation is doing ok but it alone can’t do all. Others also have to do their job honestly. Before important competitions, you can’t compromise on training,” she told TOI during a programme.

Is she wrong to point out the most important obstacle India faces today in terms of sports? Not only wrestling, but other sports too face similar problems when it comes to providing basic facilities to players. SheThePeople.TV asked a few sportswomen from the country about India’s lacking concern about basic facilities and infrastructure for its sportspersons.

No fencing academy in J&K

Ace fencer Shreya Gupta from Jammu, who recently grabbed a bronze medal at the sabre event in the Commonwealth Cadet and Junior Fencing Championship at Newcastle, England, argues, “Lack of proper infrastructure and facilities are the major hurdles. There are some financial constraints since this is a very expensive game. There is literally no support from the government side, since this game is not so popular in India like cricket and badminton. After seeing the players and teams from other countries, I think we are far behind technically and support-wise from the government.”

Despite the fact that the state of Jammu has emerging young champions who are interested in fencing, there is no academy where kids can get training. “There is no national academy for fencing in our state. There is only single stadium for all the games. Though it’s an indoor game, we play fencing outdoors since there is no other option,” she rued.

Very difficult to get funds

It’s been a long journey from Berlin to India for Andrea Thumshirn (39), the founder of ‘Garh Himmat’ and ‘Hockey Village India’. She moved to India and started teaching hockey to girls in villages such as Jatwara in Rajasthan, Busawal outside Mumbai and Sanguem, Goa. “Facilities are very basic with frequent power cuts and dirty water. It was hot and humid, dusty and sandy and in winter, it got very cold. Oh yes, a lot of struggles. Almost all my money comes from Germany. In India, it is very difficult to get funds even if it is for their own country. We are making a Hockey ground at the moment and I was asking local companies to support me with material without any success….,” Andrea specified.

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Poor wheelchairs for basketball team

Captain of Indian Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team — Vinolia Violet – led the team for the first time at the 4th Bali Cup International Tournament and claimed a Bronze. The team also represented India at the Asian Para Games qualifiers, held in Bangkok in March 2018. Her concern lies deep. “We don’t have an indoor court for regular practices. Now we do outdoor practice which is impractical for long durations. We have to keep changing the wheelchair tyres. We have been practising for the last three-and-a-half-years for the game individually. Many of the players do not have proper courts to practice and some of them do not even have proper wheelchairs. So some of them just do ball practice. We need equipment like special wheelchairs which are not available in India and we need to import them,” she said.

“We need high-quality sports wheelchair like other international teams. In Thailand, they brought sports wheelchairs specially designed for the games. New teams like LAOS, Cambodia, also came with good quality wheelchairs,” she rued.

She further said, “We keep conducting our state meets with the support of various organisations. They supported our game for a long time. Before the world stage, it was the Australian consulate which had stepped in to sponsor the girls’ team as we were struggling to generate funds. We are still trying to get sponsors for at least low-cost, quality high-performance sporty wheelchairs.”

 

“We are requesting our government to provide accessible indoor basketball court with accommodation for players from other cities and employment opportunities for national and international representing players and coaches,” – Vinolia Violet

Shebani Bhaskar, captain of the US women’s national cricket team, stated, “When compared to the huge annual financial outlay, the government has not done a great job of results-oriented sports promotion in India.”

“Government’s Ministry of Sports has so many SAI Institutes and National Institute of Sports and coaches and programs for decades at a huge outlay to the treasury. The result is worse than what poor coaches without such financial support have accomplished. From Abhinav Bindra, Leander Paes to Sakshi Malik, PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, individual coaches have won more medals for India in the Olympics than the entire sports fraternity on government salaries,” she further added.

Solutions

So what’s the solution? Bhaskar thinks, “Government should take the money being wasted on government programs and give the money to individual coaches for them to produce more champions. Gopi (P Gopichand) sir has already produced two Olympic medals in 10 years, which is more than SAI has done in 60 years. Many countries that are leaders in world sports do not have a Ministry of Sports.”

Kikam Bhutia, 29, became the first woman from the Northeastern states to be appointed as a member of the coaching staff of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Surely, the lack of facilities haunt her state too. “I am focusing more on cricket so it is difficult to keep up with daily expenses when you are not earning. Thankfully, my parents are supporting me and hopefully, very soon, I will be able to make a secure career out of it and fulfil my parents’ dream,” she asserted.

She added, “Government plays a very vital role in the development of any sports. I believe our state government should provide better infrastructure. Also, financial security should be provided to senior players (men and women). As of now, due to lack of financial security, a lot of talented women players are losing interest and forfeiting the game.”

Under the captaincy of Soliha Yousuf, the J&K women’s rugby team emerged winners in the 3rd National Snow Rugby 7’s Championship 2017 held at Golf Course, Gulmarg, in July this year. “We have recently got our own playground that means a lot to us. The government should provide us proper equipment, fitness centers, gyms. We have talent now we need proper infrastructure,” she claims.

“The main problem with rugby is that, it is not well-financed. The Government should incentivize the players in a way that we can pursue rugby as a career,” – Soliha Yousuf

Nadiya Nighat, Kashmir’s first female football coach, shared, “Due to the topography of our state, we can play for only seven months a year. We need all-weather surfaces for playing, and that starts from futsal to full field for football. Establishing a sports school for boys and girls is very necessary. Football is the most liked sport in J&K and we need to look after it from all angles.”

“No one wants to sponsor big and reputed clubs in J&K. They prefer to pay Rs 50 as tip to hotel bearers who salute them in and out but not spare a rupee for sports,” – Nadiya Nighat

 

“Encouragement — both financially and in the shape of facilities — is key. By providing facilities in the shape of infrastructure, sports material, good and sufficient coaches, exposure to see and play against and with senior and to players,” she added.

“In my community, I face more hurdles not because of gender, but because of illiteracy and less support from people who matter in the society,” –  Nadiya Nighat

Sport facilities in India is in dire need of improvement, both in men and women’s categories. How should the government revamp the entire scenario? Write in with your comments.

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