Tushar Karani, a maker of chocolates in Hyderabad, is an angry man. His elder daughter, he says, gave up playing competitive badminton because she was constantly facing opponents aged way over their real age categories. Now his younger daughter too is facing the same problems, and Karani is determined to fight it out.
The ‘overage’ problem may not be unique to India, but it is perhaps the biggest threat to sports in the country. The abuse involves parents fudging the date of birth of their children, enabling them to play in lower age categories, and denying true competitors a fair chance of winning their age-category titles. Most of these cheats tend to fade out by the time they reach the senior category, but by then the damage is done.
Unlike other parents who complain and do little about the issue, Karani is trying to establish a parents’ body that will lobby for stricter measures from Badminton Association of India.
It’s a big problem,” says Karani. “At the moment, if I have to register a complaint, I have to pay Rs 5000 to BAI, but it will be a long time before the issue is resolved. Why should I have to pay money to prove that a player is overage? The BAI should have a system in place to prevent overage abuse.”
Karani started his efforts to put together an organizing during the Union Bank All India Sub-Junior Ranking tournament that concluded on Sunday. He says several parents have come forward, and has collected about 20 signatures so far.
The overage menace is by no means a new development. In fact, Prakash Padukone remembers an instance when he was playing a junior national final against a player who was so obviously past his junior days that the audience called him ‘daddy’. At the Union Bank tournament, one witnessed players with moustaches in the later rounds of the under-15 event. Little children are often pitted against players twice their size, and whatever their talent may be, these children stand no chance against the superior speed and power of their opponents.
A note handed to parents at the tournament stated that they would need to work on the following issues: over age of participants; late hours of conducting tournaments; manipulation of draws; medical tests for age by approved panel of doctors; and oath before the match by players.
In theory, it should be fairly simple to stamp out this menace. The state associations should be responsible for verifying documents when the child is first registered as a state player, and both the child and the coach should be penalized if there is any violation. The BAI will have to regard itself seriously on these issues, and not just seek attention when a player wins an international medal.