Let the game begin…

Sports as a catalyst for development and peace

Sports as a catalyst for development and peace

Sports as a catalyst for development and peace

“Sport can play a role in improving the lives of not only individuals but whole communities. I am convinced that the time is right to build that understanding, to encourage governments, development agencies and communities to think how sport can be included more systematically in the plans to help children, particularly those living in the midst of poverty, disease and conflict.” – Kofi Anan, Seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The year 2014-15 saw a splendid celebration of Indian sports in the national and international arena. With numerous events across different sports genres and all over the world, the Indian flag was hoisted with pride by sportspersons and fans alike. Indian sports moved from strength to strength in the year 2014. With athletes being rewarded for their skills, talent and perseverance, the country made repeated headlines on the world stage, owing to the efforts of Saina Nehwal, the first Indian woman to become world no. 1 in badminton, Indian cricket team who conquered Lords after 28 years by beating England by 95 runs, Abhinav Bindra who won gold at CWG ’14. The historic win by Mary Kom at Asian Games was a moment of glory for India while the dream came true for Indian Hockey team who, after a long gap, won gold in Asian Games and directly qualified for the Rio Olympics’ 2016. Another high for Indian sports came in the form of football when a massive crowd gathered at Salt Lake to cheer for Kolkata for winning the first Indian Super League.

Sports are essential for human development. Besides being entertaining, it promotes good health, social interaction and healthy competition. It is inclusive and at the same time, fosters harmony, a sense of pride and on all occasions instills intense patriotism. Thanks to the growing popularity of sports leagues in India such as Indian Premium League (IPL), Pro Kabaddi League, India Super League, Hockey India League, Indian Badminton League, it not only created a buzz on the national ground but also created a huge viewership globally. The local talent also got the opportunity to interact with international ambassadors of sports, to play alongside them, learn new techniques, face intense situations and play with sportsman spirit.

New Picture

Over the years, the Government has launched several programmes and incentive schemes to encourage sports at the grassroots which include Come and Play Scheme of Sports Authority of India, Panchayat Yuva Krida Aur Khel Abhiyan (PYKKA), Cash Awards to Winners of Medals in International Sports Events, Sports Talent Search Scholarship Scheme, Scholarships for Training of Specialists and Outstanding Sportsperson, Sports Fund for Pension to Meritorious Sportsperson, National Welfare Fund for Sportsperson, Travel Grant to Sports Specialists, Promotion of Sports and Physical Education among Women, Rural Sports Programme, Rural Sports Clubs, North Eastern Sports Festival, Dr. B R. Ambedkar Rural Sports Tournaments, National Sports Festival for Women.

These programme and incentive schemes though laudable, have been too thinly spread to have any real impact. A lot needs to be done to take sports in India to the next level which also requires safe and accessible playfields, latest equipments, experienced coach and mentors in every locality, be it in a village a panchayat or an urban neighbourhood. If we want to make future champions, we must encourage our youth to play and nurture their talent.

Sports play a major role in the all round development in the field of education, health, employability. It is a great leveler and has the inherent quality to uplift the people with disability and bring gender equality. Around 25 percent of children at the primary level do not attend school and 57 percent drop out by 8th grade. Providing access to sports games such as puzzles and construction kits, as well as organizing individual and group activities in the classroom can enhance physical development, mutual participation and can lead to decline in the number of dropouts.

Sporting activities can also give girls access to public spaces, especially in a society where their mobility is restricted. More than 50 percent of the 13 million youth that join the workforce in India every year, are not equipped with the life skills required to gain and retain employment. With life–skill based sports programmes, one can learn to communicate with team members, negotiate with the referee, resolve conflicts within the team and outside, undertake responsibility and lead by example.

At least one in 12 households in India includes a member with a disability. With the help of well-designed sports programme for disabled, a safe and supportive environment can be created for the person to show his/her talent and leave the disability behind. Sports help break disability stereotype prevalent in the society and builds more inclusive communities.

Sport for development is based on the belief that it is not just an end in itself but also an effective means to help achieve larger development goals. Global evidence reveals that sports based programmes which are designed to address the needs of a particular section of the population have the potential to prevent disease, increase school attendance, improve learning level, foster gender equality, enhance inclusion of person with disability and build skills that promote employment and economic development of the nation.

“As a mother, do you know what I pray for most for my twins Rengpa and Nainai? I pray they lead a happy, free and healthy life. Health is the key to success. The mind is capable of magic, but we need physical stamina and energy to transform this magic into reality. As a sportswoman, I can tell you with conviction that there is no better route to health than robust physical activity.” – Mary Kom

The road to development through sports will stand or fall on the combined efforts of the individual, government, private sector organization, non-profit organization, media, and international agencies and sports personalities. Let’s breed a culture where our nation is known for creating world class sports personalities who can not only make us proud on national level but also on global arena. We need more Mary Kom, Yogeshwar Dutt, Babita Kumari, Sardar Singh, Abhinav Bindra, Sachin Tendulkar, Sarita Devi……

So just fasten up your seat belt and let the game begin…….

By – Anand Kumar | Deputy Manager – Media Campaign |Fiinovation