118 years of trust
Chandigarh, Tuesday, November 10, 1998

Football team for Asiad
By Ramu Sharma
THE Indian Olympic Association appears to have converted the authorities to their way of thinking insofar as football is concerned. Last week’s confirmation from the IOA that India would be sending a football team to the Asian Games in Bangkok was more in the nature of a formality.

Workshop with a difference
By Arvind Katyal
TO make every individual a healthy citizen of society and for that it is not necessary to involve everyone in competitive sports”, were the views of Judy Myers, manager, Aussie Sports Experience, who was here in the city along with another Australian Philips Lesley to conduct a five-day workshop for sports teachers of UT schools.


Big boost for Bangladesh cricket
By Ershadul Huq
The successful hosting of the Wills International Cricket Tournament in Dhaka has come as a shot in the arm for the Bangladesh Government and has given a boost to the country’s international image.

How spectators behave so differently
By Mohinder Singh
Amazing how spectators in different sports behave so differently. Take some premier spectator sports like football, cricket, tennis, and golf. At top levels, each one seems to evoke its own standard spectator response.

Tee Off



Football team for Asiad
By Ramu Sharma

THE Indian Olympic Association appears to have converted the authorities to their way of thinking insofar as football is concerned. Last week’s confirmation from the IOA that India would be sending a football team to the Asian Games in Bangkok was more in the nature of a formality. The spadework for the inclusion of the team in the contingent had been done earlier. So much so that the All-India Football Federation had already had their coaching camps in operation as a step towards preparing a team for the games.

The argument which won a case for football is related to the Afro-Asian Games to be held in Delhi in three years’ time. The concept has been debated for quite some years and at one time appeared to be an exercise in futility. But now it appears to be a dream-cum-true project where football and swimming along with athletics have been given the prime status of mandatory games.

India would anyway qualify to field a football team simply because they are the hosts. Now by making the discipline mandatory, the IOA have built up a solid case for participation in the Asian Games in Bangkok and perhaps other internationals where possible just to be able to get some practice for the Afro Asian Games. It is a well-thought out argument and no government at the Centre will refuse permission to the footballers irrespective of the prevailing standards outside of the country and India’s own history of poor performance during the last decade and more.

The IOA explanation “we have to prepare our team for that” will now need no elaboration particularly when the word “medal prospects” have been replaced by exposure. That is the only grounds on which the IOA can defend its decision to clear the football team.

The footballers are no doubt elated. “Not sending a team would have been a retrograde step” is the consensus. Not many will remember that the last time India took part in the Asian Games was in the Seoul edition of 1986. And the team lost all the three group matches. This time India are clubbed with Japan and Yemen and only one team will qualify for the next round. It does not require an expert to predict the outcome. India might beat Yemen but Japan? Certainly not.

Unfortunately, the IOA and the All-India Football Federation have not given much time for preparations. The boys have had less than two months to tone up for such a major contest. Former India captain Nayeemuddin may be a very good coach but it will take nothing short of a miracle to whip the combination into a winning unit. It would be better perhaps if one were to view the Asian Games in Bangkok as a part of the preparation for the Afro Asian Games to be held in Delhi in 2001. That would be more acceptable than claiming the whole exercise now in process is for the specific purpose of winning the medal in the Asian Games. In any case both the IOA and the AIFF will have a ready excuse to trot out after the games. The team was gathered in a hurry and did not have enough time to give a good performance or something to that effect.

All this talk about exposure and preparations for international competition will mean nothing if our standards do not improve. What is certain is that these preparations do more harm to the top teams playing in major tournaments on the domestic circuit during this period. Take the case of the recently concluded Durand Football Tournament.

The national camp in Bangalore more or less crippled Mohun Bagan and East Bengal and that despite the much touted bench-strength available to the teams. Irrespective of the hoarding of talent by these two clubs and other major outfits during the transfer period, when it comes to big tournaments, it is only the star value on the field that appears to count. Mohun Bagan or for that matter East Bengal will hardly ever risk exposing the bench during matches that matter.

Both teams were thus badly hit and though that should not be made an excuse for their showing in the tournament, the fact that the title was won by Mahindra and Mahindra, a team that was unable to escape relegation in the National League, is a reflection on the drop in standard of play by both teams in the Durand.

Though Chima Okeri is generally the kingpin of the attack in whichever team he plays, he is now showing signs of tiring. Clearly he is getting older. But he was still the man Mohun Bagan depended most to get them through. They were in fact reduced to bank on him even more in the absence of some of their heavily paid stars on camp duty. But Chima was screened effectively and that was the end of Mohun Bagan who lost to Air-India in the group matches and to East Bengal in the semi-final. The National League champions perhaps felt the loss to East Bengal more than the defeat against Air-India. Soon after the tournament the club dismissed coach Amal Datta, recalled after the National League, and in his place took on the high profile P K Banerjee.

East Bengal too were hard hit by the absence of some of their star players but the club could claim to be the best outfit in the tournament though the loss to Mahindras in the final cannot be attributed to anything but inferior play. Mahindras in fact played better that particular afternoon after initially backpedalling and even conceding a goal.

The Mahindra win was in the nature of a revenge. Some eight years ago the teams clashed in the title match and East Bengal had then won 3-2. Mahindra’s entry then was the first ever by a team from the western metropolis. The victory now adds new dimensions as it is the first time that a team from Mumbai has won the Durand.

Mahindra’s win this year coming as it a year after F C Kochi’s brilliant display in last year’s Durand final is in the nature of a break with the tradition generally associated with the tournament. After the eclipse of the high profile teams from Hyderabad, the Durand Tournament, with rare exceptions, has been won mostly by teams (Mohun Bagan and East Bengal) from Calcutta or Border Security Force or JCT Mills of Phagwara, both from Punjab. That has been the pattern from 1969, the year Gorkha Brigade inscribed their initials on the trophy. F C Kochi thus wrote the new chapter of the tournament last year and Mahindra’s, while setting another path, have followed suit.

Coming back to the issue of the football team for the Asian Games, the coaching camps which will be a continuous process till the Games itself, is bound to hit the IFA Shield, beginning in the eastern metropolis in the second week of November. One wonder what tactics Mohun Bagan will adopt to make up for the absence of their star players then? The absence of top stars is bound to devalue this tournament, even as it did the Durand.Top


Tee Off
By K.R. Wadhwaney
Keen contest in DGC likely

Ramesh Kohli, a virtual mediaperson, will be contesting against sitting incumbent Som Dutt, a businessman, for the post of President of the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) on November 14.

Som Dutt’s tenure of one year in the club has been eventful without any controversy. So was the tenure of Kohli when he was the captain of the club.

Connected with the media for many years, Kohli’s contribution in promoting golf has been immense. He may be an effective person to head the club which is on the genuine take-off stage in both professional and amateur golf.

When Kohli was the captain, he made a promising girl a member of the club from his discretionary quota. This gesture was lauded by all, even by his adversaries. Then, he initiated a junior training programme which became successful straightaway.

Under Article 42 (A) of the club, Rajeev Puri (Kitu) automatically becomes a member of the committee after retiring from the captaincy. A youngman of a few words, his tenure of captaincy has been equally successful. With him in the committee, the stalwarts, like O.P. Malhotra, Ashok Malik, Prakash Bhandari, Kapil Bhatia, Kailash Kohli and Jiti Chaudhari may be able to help Ramesh Kohli carry the club from strength to strength.

Maybe, the club authorities prevail upon the Indian Tobacco Company (ITC) to find a way out to stage the Indian Open here. The last meet was held here in 1993 when Ali Sher retained the title.

That Ramesh Kohli does not play golf now is held against him. This is a flimsy argument. He was, in fact, a 7-handicap golfer when he had to give up because of two major injuries. But his involvement with golf had been second to none. Must the president in waiting be a regular playing golfer?

There are some who have been carrying on a whispering campaign that Som Dutt should continue because convention should not be ‘broken’.

On October 31, 1998, there were 18-member in the fray for 13 posts of members. Three of them have since withdrawn. They are Rattan Lal Malhotra, Manhoman Singh (Bibloo) and Ms Chander Talwar.

Another one or two members may be declared ineligible to contest since they have been on the committee for three years and two year’s “cooling” period is essential before they become eligible for the contest.

If such a thing becomes a reality, maybe, there will be no contest for the posts of committee members, who will be chosen unanimously or unopposed.

Thanks to the club, golf in the country is throbbing. Many youngsters, girls included, are ‘burning’ the course, so to say. These youngsters and some young professionals will be the gainers when a health club starts functioning.

Maybe, the club requires an expert to guide youngsters about the essential needs of weight training. In weight training the best guide prevails upon his trainees what exercises should not be undertaken.

Only ‘A’ category of members are entitled to vote in the election-meeting. Of 750 ‘A’ category members, about 550 members are expected to cast their votes in the coming elections. This is a very high percentage. This amply demonstrates that members are actively involved in seeking their office-bearers. This is a healthy sign and the club is on the high road to progress.Top


Workshop with a difference
By Arvind Katyal

TO make every individual a healthy citizen of society and for that it is not necessary to involve everyone in competitive sports”, were the views of Judy Myers, manager, Aussie Sports Experience, who was here in the city along with another Australian Philips Lesley to conduct a five-day workshop for sports teachers of UT schools.

This workshop was the brainchild of Kuldip Singh of Active Sport who is the Indian representative of this programme. Judy emphasised the need for a combination of health and sports which even the Australian Government has clubbed for better functioning. The Australian sport experiment has been absolutely practical and this aspect is lacking in India where the stress is on theoretical programmes, feels Judy. The basic aim is to develop fitter young people through sports who can later lead a better life by combining qualities like leadership, teamwork and cooperative skills. Myers said it was important to play a variety of sports during one's youth as a physical fit body could do wonders in all aspects of life. The health structure of any individual could be best maintained through sporting activity and a structured curriculum of this kind would bring a sea change in the lives of young people who could study and concentrate better.

In the Australian system there were no teachers for physical education and other subject teachers were told to take sports classes, said Judy. Whereas in India, there were sports teachers in almost every school which was a big advantage. A well laid out syllabus could lead to the goal of making sport a part of the Indian culture, she added.

The Aussie sport programme had been tried and tested in schools of New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji, Hongkong, South Korea, Canada, Vietnam, Laos, New guinea and negotiations were on with UK, Japan and Ireland.

The programme has been a winner of the UNESCO award (1993) for excellence in education.

Kuldip Singh with whose initiative of the Australian team was here opined that before the start of a new concept, initial hesitation was obvious but with the determination they had, the programme was bound to be fruitful.

During the five-day workshop organised with the help of St John’s School, Sector 26, Chandigarh, at the school premises, sports teachers from five schools — Vivek High and Junior School, St Stephen’s St Anne’s and St John’s — participated. The Principal of the host school, Brother C Abrieu encouraged others to involve themselves in this unique experiment.

The Australians conducted a modified mini sports festival where students of St John’s participated. Modified sport basically resembles the sport from which it has been derived, is safe to play and provides the player with a repertoire of sport skills, which are the basis for progressing to the parent sport. The equipment used was foam footballs, plastic cricket bats, balls and stumps. Thus the basic fear of hitting and playing with the equipment was minimised as no injury was caused. Moreover, children and teachers both enjoyed participating.

When asked about the follow up of this experiment, Judy said in April they would be coming back to India, and till then the monthly report of such schools would be sent by Mr Kuldip Singh for analysis.

She also explained that in Australia the participation of the disabled in the same programme, so as to dislodge their psychological fears as both able and disabled were given the same sports manual and training in the same class, had produced good results. Those with intellectual inability had improved their intellect level by playing various sports.

They also conduct distance education programmes students sitting at home can learn the importance of physical education in their curriculum and are taught about throwing catching, kicking, striking and movement. At home, the tutors (read parents) are explained the concept and two sessions per week are devoted for this.

The Chandigarh experiment is likely to give others an impetus to experiment, adds Kuldip Singh.Top


Big boost for Bangladesh cricket
By Ershadul Huq

The successful hosting of the Wills International Cricket Tournament in Dhaka has come as a shot in the arm for the Bangladesh Government and has given a boost to the country’s international image.

The tournament was telecast to viewers in 112 nations who saw for nine consecutive days a face of Bangladesh different from its usual media portrayal as a country mired in natural and political crises.

It was a remarkable achievement for the government to have staged an international event a month after the devastating floods in the country that had given its political foes sufficient grounds to embarrass Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed.

The government is now basking in the glow of international praise coming its way. “Bangladesh has put everything in it and the Bangladesh Cricket Board has proved its worth by successfully organising the Wills International Cricket Cup,” International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive David Richard said.

“I would like to say, ‘well done, Bangladesh.’ It’s an outstanding effort,” he said, adding that the ICC would help promote cricket in Bangladesh. Richard said cricket lovers across the world saw for themselves Bangladesh’s ability to organise such a major sporting event.

“Some development programmes will be taken up in Bangladesh as part of the globalisation of cricket and ICC’s Asian development officer and former Pakistani Test cricketer Nasimul Ghani will visit the country after next January to discuss Bangladesh’s programmes for the development of cricket,” he said.

“All ICC officials are happy,” said ICC President Jagmohan Dalmiya. He said the role of the crowds would significantly help Bangladesh in attaining Test-playing status.

Sir Clyde Walcott, Chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee, said, “I am greatly impressed by the facilities at the stadium.” He said people in Bangladesh are knowledgeable about cricket and it is a “very good sign” for the game.

Although Bangladesh did not itself take part, the country qualified for the “player of the tournament” prize. The nine teams played all their matches in the 45,000-seat capacity packed Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka with vociferous support from the drum-beating, bugle-blowing, flag-waving spectators.

The winning captain, South Africa’s Hansie Cronje, said part of the reason for his men’s success was the effusive display of support. “I guess my team is not very well known here but the applause we received from the crowd was tremendously helpful for us, even in winning the cup”. Brian Lara of the runners-up West Indies said, “The crowds were a true buddy for the West Indians”.

Bangladesh’s good showing in the tournament is expected to have a positive fallout on the tourism industry. The cricket telecasts also beamed glimpses of a country rich in traditional culture, endowed with extraordinary natural beauty and populated by a fun loving people.

“It is events like these that provide opportunities for positive international exposure. The enthusiasm and sporting behaviour of the crowds at the stadium have done more to improve the image of the country abroad than a thousand diplomatic speeches could ever have done,” said the Daily Star newspaper.

“Now it is up to the government to capitalise on the success of the Wills Cup and make Dhaka a regular venue for international cricket events which would generate foreign exchange and help to improve domestic cricket,” the daily added.

However, Bangladesh still has a long way to go before attaining Test-playing status. Richard said the country must play more first class matches at home and abroad and introduce first class cricket in the country.

Bangladesh’s application for Test status is to be reviewed by a three-member panel headed by former Australian captain Bobby Simpson which will report to the ICC some time next year.

About assurances so far given by representatives of the game’s world governing body that the country would get the status within the next two years or so, Walcott said, “I am not aware of that. I know that they are working towards improving the criteria set for all the associates to reach in order to become a Test-playing country. And we have not given any specific time”. — India Abroad News Service Top


How spectators behave so differently
By Mohinder Singh

Amazing how spectators in different sports behave so differently. Take some premier spectator sports like football, cricket, tennis, and golf. At top levels, each one seems to evoke its own standard spectator response.

Nothing equals football as a sporting spectacle. There’s the big ball, 27-28 inches in circumference. Easy for spectators to watch and keep track, unlike the small ones of cricket or hockey, and still smaller of golf.

And the essential simplicity of the game. After all it’s just a spherical two-coloured object being struck about — unlike the complexity and jargon of cricket or golf. People with little experience of playing football can understand and comment.

Some psychiatrists ascribe the mass appeal of the game to it taking back homo sapiens to their hunting days. Soccer teams manoeuvring to net the ball into the opponent’s goal are reminiscent of primitive hunters cornering their quarry. And men being the primeval hunters are more fascinated than women.

Spectators see wondrous turf scenes (no artificial grass for football) of attacks and counter-attacks. The awesome tackles (supposed to be at the ball, not the player), the acrobatic jumps and the astonishing headers, the nasty pushes and the bursts of speed. The high drama of players writhing in pain — real or feigned; hurried medical ministrations; a player roughing up an opponent or making gestures of contrition over the fallen. The badly injured borne away on stretchers, their substitutes prancing on the sidelines.

Fast-moving referees busily penalising acts of dangerous play; agitatedly showing the rectangular yellow card amidst menacing players or occasionally fishing out the dreaded oval-shaped red. Nattily dressed goalkeepers gesticulating excitedly, goal-scorers racing around wildly or smothered by their ecstatic mates, goal-missers sunk in agony. The frenzy and the fight of a great football match, more so of a World Cup match where nations battle for supremacy, is simply unmatched.

Working-class crowds watching this combative game tend to be highly partisan and fired up. Many fans curse, scream, and gesticulate with relentless regularity, often buoyed by beer-boosted bravado. They boo the referee, even egg on a fouled player to retaliate. Anyone sporting the jersey of one side risks getting punched if he strays into the opponents’ enclosure.

While the referee has a hard job ensuring orderly play, the police has a harder job keeping peace.

Cricket is essentially an elite game, based on the Victorian values of sportsmanship and fair play. Even an expression of player disapproval over an umpire’s decision invites harsh penalties. Spectators, sitting relaxed, cheered a good stroke from either side and were quite reconciled to a five-day Test ending in a draw.

The innovation of one-day cricket has transformed the game. One-dayers encourage risk-taking by players and elicit much higher attention from stadium spectators. One-dayers are almost always decisive. And if a draw ever occurs, it turns out to be the most exciting.

This, once gentlemanly game, is now a fiercely competitive one. Because of TV coverage, it means big money for players. And betting on matches is now widespread.

Indian crowds have become steadily more greedy for Indian victories. Even temporary setbacks are not tolerated. Whilst players bask in national adulation when they win matches for the country, they earn the ire of crowds when they fail. The emotionally charged Calcutta crowd would’t allow the game to proceed when India were getting routed by Sri Lanka. TV coverage has apparently added to the volatility of crowds; people keen to catch the camera’s eye indulge in various forms of showy behaviour.

What accounts for the central place of cricket in the imagination of the sub-continent’s masses? Still more puzzling is the phenomenon of women taking so much interest, when most of them hardly play any cricket; boys, at least, play some street cricket. Arjun Appadurai in his essay Playing with Modernity ventures the explanation that cricket gives everybody, including the lumpen youth, a sense of modernity, and to the rural young a sense of participation in nation’s fortunes. A cricket match between India and Pakistan takes the shape of a thinly disguised war. The noted writer Huizinga calls the phenomenon “puerilism, investing games with patriotic and martial fervour while treating serious pursuits as if they were games”.

Tennis has a tradition of gentility and refinement. You sit nicely dressed amidst smaller crowds in well-appointed surroundings. The audience response to the game is always civilised — a snob value at work. While players have been complaining of disturbing spectator noise and movements at Flushing Meadows, New York (US Open), Wimbledon epitomises a tennis scene approaching the ideal.

With their increasingly shorter skirts, women players present a voyeuristic delight when they tumble or the wind blows up a skirt. But what possibly makes tennis attractive to women viewers is the sight of tall, athletic men in shorts sweating right in front; the thrill of seeing fit, firm men getting hot. Many women watchers seem more interested in the human spectacle than the finer points of tennis. Agassi, for instance, with his piratical look, exposed midriff, and a dangling earring is a sure heartthrob. In fact, star sportsmen are the new sex symbols, lady-killers in sportswear. Who else combines in such abundant measure celebrity status, big money, and gorgeous body?

Even if you are seven feet tall, have the vision of an eagle, and run like a cheetah, watching a golf tournament can be the single most frustrating experience in the whole world of sports.

The point is that in every other sport all the action occurs right there in front of you. In golf, by the nature of the game and the size of the playing field, most of the action is always taking place somewhere else.

Around 5,000 golf shots are played each day of a four-day tournament. Television aims to capture 10 per cent of them. Quality shots in such number a golf spectator can never hope to see by himself.

Compared to spectators of other sports, golf spectators can almost be likened to unsung heroes. No other spectators undertake their enterprise with such well-behaved enthusiasm. Players can be assured of pindrop silence when making a putt hardly some feet away from a few hundred spectators. Even a sneeze is snuffed. And nobody watching would dream of distracting a player in shot-making by any unwarranted movement.

Golf spectators walk miles over rough tracks — on the other side of the ropes quarding fairways. The attendant inconveniences are accepted as a part of the price to be paid for watching some prime golf.

One thing distinguishes spectators of golf from those of other sports. Many of those watching a cricket match may not have wielded the willow. A person seeing a polo match may have never ridden a horse. Even much of the clapping at Wimbledon is mechanical, almost obligatory. But the vast majority of golf-watchers are golfers themselves — and they usually come dressed in their golfing attire. Their appreciation has to be earned through great play, not to be taken for granted.

There is hardly a trace of partisanship. Good shots are invariably applauded, whoever happens to hit them. A bad shot or a mossed putt evokes silence or a shake of the head. And there is genuine sympathy for anyone suffering a lousy found, the kind of sympathy that can come only from those who likewise have suffered.Top

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