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Fickle-minded support for Indian sports needs to stop

ANALYST
Feature
1.84K   //    18 Aug 2013, 20:18 IST
15th Asian Games Doha 2006 - Athletics Women's 800m Final

Out of sight, out of mind: Santhi Soundarajan is one of the many forgotten heroes of Indian sports.

Every time it’s the same. Every time an Indian wins a tournament, the whole country goes nuts. For once, the unknowns take the spotlight. Columns filled with tributes.

Rewind to a week before the win and not a third of them would have known about the player’s participation in the tournament. The coverage only starts when the player reaches the final stages of the tournament, probably a win or two away from glory.

In some instances, even that goes missing. How many Indians actually tracked PV Sindhu’s participation at the Badminton World Championships prior to her bronze? A few may have tracked Saina Nehwal’s progress in the tournament, but that’s as far as it gets.

How many would know about Vikas Gowda’s creditable 7h place finish at the on-going IAAF World Championships? How many would know about the Indians participating in the IAAF World Championships? Compare the answers to these questions with a question about Usain Bolt’s latest victories.

This is one of the biggest problems plaguing sports in India. The spotlight on sportspersons only lasts a few days and after the whole nation is spent boasting about national pride and glory, etc. etc., the athletes are soon forgotten.

Take even the ongoing Indian Badminton League, which has seen half-empty stadiums and receives more coverage for its TV host than the matches themselves. The only match that gathered enough viewers was the showdown between Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu, and this too only because of Sindhu’s bronze medal-winning effort a few days back.

Even when Sindhu beat Olympic champion Li Xuerui back in 2012, there was hardly anyone caring about it. If Saina Nehwal hadn’t bowed out of the World Championships this year before Sindhu, the latter wouldn’t have got all the attention that she did.

Both the media and the people noticed her only after Saina’s failure. This posterization of Saina Nehwal  may help draw attention to badminton, but it also trivializes the achievements of others in the sport.

Ultimately, the reality of sports in India is that they draw in attention only when the individual or team does well beyond the expectations of anyone. Whatever struggles they face up to that point goes completely ignored, as we can see in the case of the Yuwa girls from Jharkhand.

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These Yuwa girls faced the ignominy of being forced to sweep floors of the Panchayat office, and also got slapped, at the time of applying for a passport. How much coverage did the story get? This was back in April 2013, and despite a bit of media coverage, no notice was taken.

Fast forward to July and these girls are being heralded by people all over the country. Suddenly, the AIFF finds them worthy of recognition, suddenly the state authorities find it worthy to initiate action against the Panchayat officer.

This false posterization of sportspersons in our country needs to stop. Sportspersons need to be recognised for their achievements. But more importantly, the country needs to stand by them when they are down as well. The case of Santhi Soundarajan is a glaring example of the fickle nature of us Indians.

Glorifying them only when they bring glory to the country, boasting their achievements as though it were our own, and then leaving them in the dumps when they’re down needs to stop. This falsity may help paint a rosy picture for sportspersons in the short-term, but will do nothing beneficial in the long-term.

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