SPORTS TRIBUNE Saturday, November 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India
 

Indian football in realm of professionalism
Ramu Sharma
F
rom the mid-seventies till recent months, Indian football appears to have stood at a standstill posture, almost bordering on stagnation. But things have changed if the recent performances are of any indication.

Tennis cupboard looks bare
M.S. Unnikrishnan
T
he debate has once again begun ó who after Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi? This poser has become a constant teaser following the failure of the Indian players to live up to expectations in the Asian Games in Busan. 

FUNDS FOR SPORTS
Sport England shows the way
Arvind Katyal
S
ports requires investment but in India innovative methods to collect money for the development of sports are lacking. Sports schemes are either funded by the government of by the corporate sector. However, in the United Kingdom Sport England with the mission to uplift sports and win maximum medals in the 2012 Olympics, can be an eye-opener. Aiming at building a healthy nation, Sport England offers a lesson to countries where sports is not a priority area.

Budding sportsmen curious about drugs
Neeraj Bagga
T
he much- hyped doping test of Sunita Rani in the recently Asian Games at Busan has left an adverse impact on budding sportspersons. Young boys and girls have started asking their coaches about the use and names of drugs which they think can enhance their performance on the field.

 


 
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Indian football in realm of professionalism
Ramu Sharma

From the mid-seventies till recent months, Indian football appears to have stood at a standstill posture, almost bordering on stagnation. But things have changed if the recent performances are of any indication. And there is proof enough that the All-India Football Federation has finally woken up to the realities of the way the game is played in the modern world. First it has released the players from the bonds of the Kolkata Football League. For the first time in the history of Indian football players "bought" by the big clubs in Kolkata have been allowed to wear the colours of the states they belong to for the national championship. This is something the player-donor states have been asking for a number of years. Not only are the state teams deprived of their main players but there is also no guarantee that these export versions would ever get a chance to play for Bengal.

Because of the induction of players outside the state Bengal is often forced to horde and thereby also wasting talent. Thus because of the embarrassing riches even top class players sometimes find themselves warming the bench though if released they would be more than welcome by their own home states. Thus the step to release them from the Kolkata Bondage is a major concession and will certainly help boost the standard of many of the states which used to export its talent to Kolkata. This is in fact a double boon as it will also mean that Bengal will be able to give opportunities to many of its own players who would otherwise never be able to get a look in during the national championships. The release from the "bond" also means that the Santosh Trophy would be truly representative instead of being Bengal heavy most of the times.

The other important step taken by the AIFF is to make the national league completely professional. Mr Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, the majordomo of Indian football was on television recently, talking about the professionalism to be introduced in Indian football. And he made it very clear that while the Kolkata League would continue to be played along the existing lines with players from outside of the states and a limited number of foreign stars helping the local boys the teams for the national league would be wholly and truly all professional. It is an ambitious plan but requires complete overhaul of the entire system, from players to playing conditions.

What Mr Dasmunshi did not exactly spell out was the source of the money for the clubs to go totally professional. The few lakhs of rupees which change hands at the time of transfers will not be sufficient to bring Indian football to a professional platform. When one talks about professional football it means foreign players and that in turn means millions and millions of rupees.

The reason for giving a new face to Indian football has obviously come following the success of Korea and Japan in recent times. The two soccer super-powers from Asia were joint hosts to the World Cup and apart from the excellent organisation they more than made their presence felt on the field, particularly the South Korean team.

These two countries have worn the professional cloak for nearly a decade if not more. The results were there for everyone to see. Their entire outlook to the game has changed, and they have firmly replaced the oncoming Arab rush on football. And no one can deny that the Arabs have talent in plenty. India now plans to join the bandwagon in terms of transforming the game from stalemated mediocrity to international level. It requires more than just words. It requires a huge amount of money. Mr Dasmunshi did not spell out the source but obviously that is not his job. He and the AIFF will certainly help and Mr Vijay Mallaya, the first industrialist to go in for sponsoring professional teams, is there to help out with his contribution. And it would be in the interest of the AIFF and its efforts to modernise the game in the country if it also roped in the man who revolutionised Punjab football, JCT boss Samir Thapar. Mr Thapar would be more than willing to do his share.

At the same time the AIFF should study the development of the game in South Korea and Japan and also that of China which is taking big strides in the game. And when China takes big strides, it means business. While talking about professional football one hopes that Mr Dasmunshi knows what type of surface the game is played in Korea and Japan. Our grounds will have to be updated and other facilities enhanced to meet the demands of modern football. All this will take time. But at the moment a start has been made.

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Tennis cupboard looks bare
M.S. Unnikrishnan

The debate has once again begun ó who after Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi? This poser has become a constant teaser following the failure of the Indian players to live up to expectations in the Asian Games in Busan. Tennis standard in Asia is not comparable to what prevails in the developed world, yet the fact that the Indian players, particularly the men, struggled to hold out their own, in the singles event in particular, was indeed a cause for worry.

What has happened to all those high-brow tennis academies, who charge a fortune to train the players, and promise to churn out "stars by the dozens" and the myriad "schemes" initiated by the All-India Tennis Association (AITA)?

India were saved the blushes at Busan when Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi won the doubles gold and Mustafa Ghouse and Vishal Uppal lifted the bronze. Rohan Bopanna, the new kid on the block, and Harsh Mankad, were expected to perform miracles, but despite their best efforts, they could not figure among the medals.

Is the Indian tennis cup board bare, sans Leander and Mahesh?

Rohan Bopanna begs to differ. "The Asian Games were a great learning experience. I got to play a whole lot of better ranked players. The outing has definitely enriched my game. But I could have played better". Rohan Bopanna made a fleeting appearance in Delhi, on way to Bangalore from Tashkent, to witness the DSCL Open Tennis Tournament. He could not participate in the DSCL Open due to his prior commitment in the Asian Championship at Tashkent, where he ended up as the runner-up. A title win at the $ 100,000 Asian Championship would have earned Bopanna an automatic entry into the Australian Open. The absence of Bopanna, Harsh Mankad and even Vishal Uppal, indeed, robbed the DSCL Open of a lot of sheen.

Bopanna says in his case, things were beyond control. He had qualified for the final of the Asian Championship, and couldnít have skipped the prestigious event to play in the DSCL Open.

Point taken. But what about others? Rohan Bopanna, of course, seems to be the only player, on the Indian tennis firmament now, who has it in him to hit the big league.

"The Asian Games were OK. It gave me a lot of confidence; helped me believe in myself", said the Coorgi. Bopanna gives a lot of credit for the improvement in his game to "coach" CGK Bhupathi. He trains at the Bhupathi Village in Bangalore whenever heís in the Southern Metropolis. But Bopanna is emphatic in his assertion that he has no "role models". "I am on my own", he says. Heís no clone of anybody either, and whatever he has achieved on the court is due to dint of hardwork, and talent. He felt that he could have done better in the Asian Championship, but conceded that he lost the final as "I didnít play as well as I should have done in the earlier rounds".

But Bopanna said the experience gained from the recent international exposures has been good. "I have become more consistent. My returns have improved", he said. The big, booming serves have been Bopannaís life line. "My big serves continue to be my big weapon", he admits. "I think my game has been improving close to expectation", he noted. But it does not, by any stretch of imagination, implies that he has "arrived". "I still have a long way to go", he said modestly, the title clash in the Asian Championship notwithstanding.

Bopanna was also quite guarded in his reaction about the Davis Cup experience against Australia. "Whatever decision (non-playing captain) Ramesh Krishnan took, was in the best interest of the team," he added.

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FUNDS FOR SPORTS
Sport England shows the way
Arvind Katyal

Sports requires investment but in India innovative methods to collect money for the development of sports are lacking. Sports schemes are either funded by the government of by the corporate sector. However, in the United Kingdom Sport England with the mission to uplift sports and win maximum medals in the 2012 Olympics, can be an eye-opener. Aiming at building a healthy nation, Sport England offers a lesson to countries where sports is not a priority area.

Chief Executive of Sport England (SE) David Moffett told this correspondent that they were able to generate money through lottery. It made an investment of more than £ 165 million for games and to enhance the sports facilities. The commonman is happy over the involvement of the largest agency in revenue generation.

Manchester, which hosted the Commonwealth Games, will have a network of sports facilities and congenial training environment. Mr Moffett revealed that the investment had also enhanced the quality of life in Manchester with creation of more jobs. According to a study, these Games helped secure more than £600 million investment creating nearly 6000 full time jobs besides attracting nearly 3 lakh tourists. Mr Moffett said £ 35 million of lottery funds were spent on world class sports programmes and on improving the sports environment.

He said the concept of raising funds had received international appreciation. Sport England has spent £ 30 million on running costs with £ 15 million being towards the total project costs.

An added feature of Manchester will be conversion of the 48,000 capacity stadium into a community centre. The stadium will be available for 100 days per year. Manchester City Football Club will, however, pay rent based on a percentage of ticket sales.

The creation of infrastructure will also boost the chances of the nation which will bid for the 2012 Olympics.

The Bolton arena with a capacity of 300, is just 15 miles from Manchester. It got the lionís share of £11.3 million of the total project cost of £15 million. Apart from indoor facilities, it has a sports education centre, where sports development programmes are initiated to boost the morale of sportspersons. The Chairman of the English Institute of Sport, Mr Steve Cram, was of the view that those competing now-a-days would reap the benefits of Sport Englandís initiative.

He said sports programmes would be made popular in city schools so that England could become a force to reckon with by 2012. Mr Moffett revealed that there was a plan to move the highly acclaimed Commonwealth Games track to the National Indoor arena in Birmingham where the 2003 World Indoor Athletics Championships would be held.

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Budding sportsmen curious about drugs
Neeraj Bagga

The much- hyped doping test of Sunita Rani in the recently Asian Games at Busan has left an adverse impact on budding sportspersons. Young boys and girls have started asking their coaches about the use and names of drugs which they think can enhance their performance on the field. It could be a great headache for the sports authorities to check the menace as there is practically no infrastructure to conduct dope tests at least at the district level. Taking a break during a practice session, a young athlete of Amritsar at Guru Nanak Dev University grounds explained that since the issue had been widely publicised, they were passionate to know about these drugs and to use them in forthcoming competitions. All the players of his age want to know about the names of these drugs and some of them have even approached local chemists.

According to this athlete, there is tough competition between players these days and everyone wants to prove better than the rest.

Confirming the new trend, a coach present on the ground said a number of young players had started coming to them to know about the performance-enhancing drugs. He said on being rebuked the children stop further discussion on the topic but in case of leniency, they ask more and more questions.

Most of the coaches are of the view that like in foreign countries the topic should not be openly discussed as the media hype over the positive test of Sunita Rani may cause irreparable damage to Indian sportspersons.

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SPORTS MAIL

It was shocking to learn that Sunita Rani was stripped of her medals at the Busan Asian Games after testing positive. Our government must hire the best lawyers to plead her case as was done by the Sri Lankan authorities in the case of Susanthika, who had won a bronze in 200 m at the Sydney Olympics.

BANSI RAM, Garhshanker

DD disappoints

It is true that DD-1 has disappointed sports lovers all over the country. DD-1 is accepted as an important link between people. But sadly sports events like the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games were ignored while cricket is always on the screen. DD-1 must not ride roughshod on peopleís feelings.

Village youth can be attracted towards sports other than cricket. My son watched the football World Cup on TV. Later he abandoned his bat and joined his college football team. DD-1 can alone inspire young boys across the country to take up different disciplines.

S. KUMAR, Jawalamukhi

Indian cricket

By taking a winning 2-0 lead over West Indies, the Indians once again showed that they not only play well in one-dayers but also in Test matches. India have won only two series out of 17 prior to the present one, against Windies. Now the Indian team appears well set to take on any team.

RAMAN DEEP CHAWLA, AboharTop