SPORT TRIBUNE Saturday, September 23, 2000, Chandigarh, India
 


This page would not be updated for a few weeks owing to unavoidable circumstances. The shortcoming is regretted. 

The matter below was posted on September 16, 2000.

Why the last-minute trials?
By Ramu Sharma
S
OME things never change. The confusion on the eve of the departure of an Indian contingent for the Olympics for instance. It is always a chaotic time. Everything appears to have been left for the last minute, even the final selection of competitors and officials and the hangers-on. Operation Sydney was no different. In fact, if any thing it was even worse than ever before. The story was of course the same, joy on some faces, tears in some others. A typical Indian syndrome and the same ambience. The ethos too was as confounding as it was touching. Indian officials never learn. India never learns.

Gopi — trying to revive glory
By Arvind Katyal

I
NDIAN badminton is making a determined effort to revive its lost glory, thanks to the superb performances of Gopichand and Aparna Popat who are now waiting for their skills to be testified at the Sydney Olympics. These two players owe a lot to Prakash Padukone, whose contribution to the game is impossible to quantify. Not only did he give the nation medals in bagfull, but he created an atmosphere for the growth of the sport in the country. Prakash has given to the game all that the game gave him.

Insurgency kills sports in Kashmir
By Rezaul H. Laskar

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PORTS have been among the many casualties of the 11-year-old violent separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir and many in Srinagar mourn the frontier state’s fall from an eminent position in games like soccer.

Kashmiris take to martial art
T
HANGTA, a martial art from the northeastern state of Manipur, has become a craze with young boys and girls in Jammu and Kashmir, which has witnessed a mushrooming of thangta clubs.

Teeing-off
by K.R. Wadhwaney
Why is Rohtas being ignored ?
I
N this country, even after 53 years of independence, one has to have a ‘‘mai baap’’ to receive a ‘look-in’ the arena of sports. Had this not been the case, the claims of Rohtas Singh for the Arjuna Award would not have been overlooked once again.

 


 
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Why the last-minute trials?
By Ramu Sharma

SOME things never change. The confusion on the eve of the departure of an Indian contingent for the Olympics for instance. It is always a chaotic time. Everything appears to have been left for the last minute, even the final selection of competitors and officials and the hangers-on. Operation Sydney was no different. In fact, if any thing it was even worse than ever before. The story was of course the same, joy on some faces, tears in some others. A typical Indian syndrome and the same ambience. The ethos too was as confounding as it was touching. Indian officials never learn. India never learns.

One of the biggest culprits was the Amateur Athletics Federation of India. The Salwan meet, its latest “international baby was three years old and as in previous years the tag of international lent it some status, this year the AAFI added some more trappings and took the opportunity to hold “final” trials for the men’s relay and discus thrower Anil Kumar among others. The whole proceeding was a big joke. A carnival atmosphere added to the chaotic conditions in the stadium while on the track sombre faced officials tried to give the meet an serious turn. In actual fact it was a school meet , the Salwan School Meet as usual with the added dimensions of an international. How such a meet, organised so haphazardly, was bestowed an international tag, is a mystery. Maybe because the AAFI secretary, Lalit Bhanot is an old student. But surely he could not have been a party to such a farce.

The meet with some athletes from foreign countries, not all of high quality, was badly organised and poorly planned. Held a day or two before the departure of the Indian contingent, it was a very poor advertisement for a city hosting the first Afro-Asian Games next year and is aspiring to invest in the Asian Games again in the near future. It would be a waste of time to go into the results of the so called international. The men’s relay team was disqualified as one of the runners cut into the inner lane and Anil Kumar did not have one of his better days. The question here is why the trials at this late stage and why any trials at all after everything was over. No other country selects its athletes in this manner, at least if such thing do happen, one has not heard of it. Of course, India is something different and it seems to happens all the time. But why. Once the team was finalised and announced a week or 10 days ago, that should have been the end of the matter.

What exactly these last minute trials would prove is anybody’s guess except, of course, to given legality to the athletes selected at this juncture. There is no evidence to suggest that these athletes who have failed in earlier operations would suddenly find inspiration and cross the qualifying mark. As it is no one is expecting any medals from the athletics but why this farce?

Then there was the distressing story of Sunita Rani. One of the most promising women distance runners in the country Sunita Rani, unfortunately was injured and ruled out from serious competition for a certain period. . The doctor’s verdict was known to her and the officials. But somehow the athlete reportedly appeared to be given the impression that she would be on the plane to Sydney, not for participating (that was out of question) but as observer, spectator or what you will so that she would get a feel of the atmosphere for the future. Obviously there were quite some interested parties at the highest level who wanted Sunita to go to the Olympics. The AAFI, however put its foot down and Sunita’s chances of making to the Olympics vanished. It was indeed sad. One felt for the young girl. But who was responsible for misguiding her and filling her with false hope? This sort of thing has happened in the past too and with officials too. One remembers the time when the highly respected coach, Ken Bosen, was denied permission to go the Commonwealth Games “Down Under” in the final stages. One remembers too trials held on the eve of the departure of the team to ensure more competitors are loaded onto the plane. And now we come to the major issue of the number of participants. Why is India sending such a large contingent? Particularly so when there is no hope of a medal from any source, hockey perhaps excepted. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi can may strike a combination all over again after the long separation. The hope here is based on facts and figures and not on just patriotism. They have been world No 1 in the past and have it in them to bring the gold. The speculation about the weightlifters (another controversial selection) and boxers may not be justified. Here again stories relating to the fitness angle of the boxers came at a shocking moment, when the team had already left. It was not fair to start rumours about the fitness of the boxers. Coach Sandhu is far too senior and experienced hand to make such comments at this late hour. Naturally he has denied the story but it did not help the general atmosphere at a time when the final contingent was leaving.

It is rather sad indeed that India prepares for Olympics with such fanfare and then suddenly, most of the time, on the eve of departure, things come apart. So much has been built around the hockey team. But it seems it will be one team without much match practice before the Olympics. Somehow the plans have not worked out and the story from Sydney about the treatment meted out to Ranjit Singh, the penalty corner trainer, is hardly the tonic for the team’s moral. Ranjit Singh, it is reported , seemed to have got the boot, from the camp. He has not been given proper accreditation papers. His papers allow him only up to the training area and not inside the proper stadium. He is blaming the IHF secretary, Jyotikumar. Haven’t we heard things like this before?
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Gopi — trying to revive glory
By Arvind Katyal

INDIAN badminton is making a determined effort to revive its lost glory, thanks to the superb performances of Gopichand and Aparna Popat who are now waiting for their skills to be testified at the Sydney Olympics. These two players owe a lot to Prakash Padukone, whose contribution to the game is impossible to quantify. Not only did he give the nation medals in bagfull, but he created an atmosphere for the growth of the sport in the country. Prakash has given to the game all that the game gave him.

Now it is the turn of Gopichand and Aparna to keep the flag flying after qualifying for the Olympics. It will come as no surprise if Gopichand walks away with a medal.

Badminton made its maiden appearance in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and even countries like the USA where the sport has no following took part in the event in the 1996 Olympics at Atlanta. At Sydney the discipline will be contested for the third time. It will be players from Indonesia, China, Malaysia and Denmark who would be keenly watched. Much will depend how Gopichand plays against Druzchenko of Ukraine in the preliminary round with the winner of this tie meeting second-seeded Hendrawan of Indonesia in the next round. Gopichand, if he wins both matches, will have to cross swords with defending champions Erik Hoyer of Denmark in his quest for a medal for India. Erik was beaten by Gopichand in 1998.

And the way Gopichand has been playing during the past few months and seeing his recent superb form when he extended Taufik Hidayat in the semifinals of the last Malaysian Open at 11-15, 12-15 also proves the fact that Gopichand, can really be one of the medal prospect for India.

Aparna certainly has a more tougher draw. She is stated to face Camilla Martin if she wins her first round match against Kelly Morgan. Aparna has to pull up her game by a couple of matches if she hopes to leave a mark at Sydney.

Gopichand has been plagued by knee injury throughout his career. In 1994, when he just begun making his mark at the national level, he collided with his then partner Vijay Raghavan in the doubles final of the National Games held at Pune. He had to take long rest due to his knee injury. Then, prior to the Senior National Badminton Championships at Patiala in January 1995, Gopichand underwent a knee operation and he played it with leather caps on his knee. Everyone was amazed to see this player playing with grit and determination in men singles despite the handicap. In 1997, he was able to reach the final of the Indian Open Grand Prix Meet but another knee injury threatened him.

If Leander Paes was the unknown player who boosted India’s morale in 1996 by winning a medal, now it might be the turn of Gopichand, the unheralded hero of Indian badminton. 
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Insurgency kills sports in Kashmir
By Rezaul H. Laskar

SPORTS have been among the many casualties of the 11-year-old violent separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir and many in Srinagar mourn the frontier state’s fall from an eminent position in games like soccer.

Abdul Majid Kakroo, a footballer who represented the country from 1981 to 1989 and briefly captained the national team in the mid 80’s, is one of those who lament the toll the insurgency has taken on sports.

“There was a time in the 70’s when all the grounds along the Maulana Azad Road as well as the Polo Grounds would be full of footballers and people would come from miles away to watch the games,” Kakroo said. “Kashmir was known as one of the Meccas of Indian football and our players were as skilled as those of West Bengal.”

Today these grounds are empty almost throughout the day. One only occasionally comes across a handful of men playing a friendly game of cricket.

“I feel like crying when I think about those days. I don’t know how I have survived the last decade,” said Kakroo, who now coaches the Jammu and Kashmir Bank’s football team. “There is no respect for sportspersons. Under my guidance, the bank team has won 35 tourneys but I still have only a clerk’s job at the bank,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by cricketer Niyaz Ahmed Khan, who represented Jammu and Kashmir in the Ranji Trophy domestic tournament on two occasions. “The state cricket association still hasn’t paid us our match fees and other allowances for the games we played in 1998 and there are no training facilities in the state to speak of.”

“One hears of sportspersons being rewarded with government jobs in other states but nothing like that happens in Kashmir,” he said.

Shakeel Ahmed, manager of the Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council playing grounds here, said, “Talent is still there but there are no outlets for the sportspersons. All public events, including sports tourneys, simply stopped after the violence started. Sports activities simply petered out.”

But while popular sports like soccer and cricket have suffered due to the separatist movement, one lesser-known discipline — body-building — has been attracting a large number of youths in recent years. There has been a mushrooming of health clubs all over Srinagar over the past few years.

Yasir Paul, manager of the Hygienic Body Gymnasium, located a stone’s throw away from the office of the separatist All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) office in Srinagar’s Raj Bagh area, said the health craze has been inspired by the media. “Boys see muscular movie stars like Salman Khan and decide to join gyms. There is also greater awareness of the benefits of keeping fit by working out,” he said.

On the streets of Srinagar in summer, boys dressed in tight T-shirts, showing off their toned muscles, is a common sight now. Over the past five years, some 50 gyms have mushroomed in Srinagar.

Paul alone has trained 1,000 body-builders over the past decade. “When we organised a body-building competition in July this year, we decided to give the winners prizes like washing machines and TVs because in today’s world nobody attaches much importance to medals and certificates,” he said. “When the parents of some winners saw the prizes, they were encouraged to provide more support to them so that they could train for more prestigious events like the Mr India contest,” he added.

— India Abroad News Service
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Kashmiris take to martial art

THANGTA, a martial art from the northeastern state of Manipur, has become a craze with young boys and girls in Jammu and Kashmir, which has witnessed a mushrooming of thangta clubs.

In fact, Jammu and Kashmir has taken the runners-up position in the National Thangta Championships for the past four years and two teenaged girls from the state — Sakeena and Shagufta — have been chosen to represent India at the 2002 Asian Games where thangta will be a demonstration sport.

Shagufta is, in fact, one of the first Indian girls to receive the black belt status in thangta, a karate-like martial art.

Nazir Ahmed, the general-secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Thangta Association and the man responsible for introducing the martial art in the state, has bigger plans. “This year, we want to wrest the top spot in the national championship from Manipur,” the 30-year-old well-built martial arts exponent said.

Thangta is an ancient battlefield martial art requiring of its exponents plenty of energy and skill, long and arduous practice and adherence to rules and rituals.

Since the state association was formed in 1997, some 25 thangta clubs have come up in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir, including Jammu, Kargil and Ladakh. These clubs have about 1000 members, including some 350 girls, Ahmed said.

Ahmed, an exponent of the Japanese martial art karate, was trained in thangta by the well-known Manipuri martial artiste-expert Priyo Kumar Singh when he was living in Maharashtra in the mid-90s. Since then, he has acquired a fourth degree black belt — one of the highest rankings in martial arts — and trained at least 15 thangta instructors in Kashmir.

The popularity of thangta among young girls in Kashmir has come as a bit of surprise even for Ahmed. “The fact that the sport has become popular in a society which has never encouraged women to take up sports is equally surprising,” he said.

In several localities on the outskirts of Srinagar, which were once dominated by separatist groups, young girls are taking up thangta for self-defence. Thangta clubs have been set up in areas like Pampora, Gutlibagh and Kangan, where the extremists’ writ once run supreme.

At last year’s National Thangta Championship, the Jammu and Kashmir team bagged a total of 43 medals, including 18 gold. Teams from 15 states participated in the championship and 20 states are likely to take part in this year’s championship.

Ahmed, however, is undaunted. “God willing, we will be the champions this year,” he said with a smile.

— IANS
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Teeing-off
by K.R. Wadhwaney
Why is Rohtas being ignored?

IN this country, even after 53 years of independence, one has to have a ‘‘mai baap’’ to receive a ‘look-in’ the arena of sports. Had this not been the case, the claims of Rohtas Singh for the Arjuna Award would not have been overlooked once again.

A caddy-turned-professional Rohtas Singh’s contribution to Indian professional golf has been amazing. He has achieved many milestones as a player and has done a great deal in promoting and popularising golf in the country, If there is a marked improvement in the lot of caddies, it is mainly because of his efforts, He deserves not only recognition but appreciation from all sports loving people.

If thrower Parduman Singh could be honoured with the Arjuna Award, why could not Rohtas Singh be named among the Arjuna Awards winners. Rohtas Singh may not have claimed a gold medal in the Asian Games, but his contribution is not less than that of Parduman Singh and many others who have been ‘bestowed’ upon this prestigious award, which is fast losing its glitter.

If the high-headed Indian Golf Union (IGU) and Professional Golfers Association of India (PGAI) failed to press for recognition to Rohtas Singh, the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) should have pressed for his claim. True, it may not be the prerogative of the DGC to file a claim for Rohtas Singh, but there is no bar in fighting for the “just” cause.

The Delhi Golf Club could indeed have fought for Rohtas Singh if only it was a house united. Unfortunately, there are problems persisting in the club. Most of the problems are created by senior incumbents. If the President granted permission to one “outsider” to make use of the club facilities, the captain went one better by granting permission to more than four persons to utilise the club facilities. When the captain was asked questions, he merely walked out of the meeting. Does walking out of the meeting solve problems?

Jeev recovers

A proud Arjuna Award recipient, Jeev Milkha Singh will soon be back on the course after a long lay-off because of wrist injury. He feels-optimistic that he will be back in form as his injury has fully mended. “This time, I did not take any chance and gave the injury full time to recover”, said Jeev, adding: “I feel my wrist is strong enough to withstand the pressure of playing competitive golf.”

Jeev’s first major competition will be the Siel Honda at DGC in the last week of September. He has not exactly made up his mind but he will concentrate on the Indian circuit and the APGA Tour to judge for himself how his wrist behaves. He is likely to obtain exemption from the European circuit on medical grounds before returning to it from the next season.

Determined achiever

Mukesh Kumar (Mhow) was presented a fat cheque for being declared Mohindra Golfer of the year. He was presented the cheque by a veteran golfer, Rajkumar Pitambar, an Arjuna Awardee, at a solemn ceremony held at Mumbai. This was for the first time the venue had been changed from Delhi to Mumbai.

Playing consistently throughout the year, Mukesh was a winner. He richly deserved the reward of Rs 7 lakh. His total earnings during the year were Rs 16 lakh.

It was touch and go between Mukesh and Feroz Ali. Mukesh managed to claim the reward. The results had to be checked and rechecked before it was announced that Mukesh had just beaten Feroz. When the result was announced, Mukesh leaped in sheer joy. Feroz Ali showed his sporting spirit in embracing his colleague who had also risen through sheer hard work and dedication.

Obscure places like, Mhow and Lucknow have produced fine professional golfers. This augurs well for Indian golf which, with cricket lying low because of betting and match fixing, should gain further mileage. No wonder more sponsors are coming forward to help promote golf instead of cricket and cricket players.

There was time until last year when cricket players were a big draw wherever they were spotted. Now, no one seems to care for them. When cricket players-turned-golfers visit the Delhi Golf Club or any other club, no one seems to bother about them. They may now be realising how much damage they have done to their reputation.
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High hopes from hockey team

SPORTS has been a much-neglected area in this country. It would, therefore, be futile to expect any spectacular performance at the Sydney Olympics. Our players and athletes will get what they deserve. Yet a lurking hope persists that we may do better than expected. Good luck India.

S.C. KAPOOR
Noida.

II

This time, the Indian hockey team is well-balanced. The country expects a lot from this team. In the warm-up and practice matches, India beat Sydney XI by 3-2. In the second match, India beat Canada 2-1, after trailing 0-1. Hockey lovers and all countrymen expect a lot from this team.

B.M. SINGH NARANG
Chandigarh.

Indian football

Countrymen were shocked by a recent report that India had slumped to the 113th position (previous ranking was 106th) among the football playing nations. This is utterly shameful for a country of more than 100 crore people. The administrators responsible for this pitiable condition should be censured and sacked. Football is the common man’s game requiring minimum facilities and it should not be impossible, with sincere efforts, to produce a world class team. Mr Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, a wholetime politician, has been heading the AIFF for more than a decade and taking into account the continuous downfall of the game, he is advised to stick to one field and by this he will be doing justice to both i.e. politics and sports. He is already under fire for dropping two promising players from the touring team to accommodate five favourites.

J.K. MAGO
Panchkula
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