The story of sports and development can well be portrayed through the success of South Africa and the unequivocal contribution towards mankind by none other than Bharat Ratna Nelson Mandela. The great man once said, “Sport has the power to unite people in a way little else can. Sport can create hope where there was once only despair. It breaks down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of discrimination. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand.”
India, a nation of 1.27 billion people, is not considered dominant in any sport that’s widely played except cricket. Yes, cricket is a religion in India with a billion devotees sweating it out, day and night to make it to the national team. But, what about making it to the Olympics and winning medals for the country? Until a few years ago, there was no other sport apart cricket that was talked about by the people, covered by the media or television and encouraged by the parents to be played by their sons or daughters. However, India now has players to look up to like Mary Kom, Sushil Singh, Yogendra Dutt, Abhinav Bindra, Sardar Singh, Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza, Sunil Chettri, Dipika Pallikal, Jwala Gutta, Geeta Phagot, Leander Paes and others.
The global sports sector is estimated to be worth USD 480–620 billion. However, in India, sport is yet to be recognised as a sector and there is no comprehensive study on the industry’s estimated size in the country. There have been corruption scandals, and political influence over sports which never bodes well for any kind of development. In recent times, there has been development in many sports with private players contributing towards development of these sports. Initiatives such as Indian Super League, Pro Kabbaddi, Indian Hockey League, Indian Premier League etc. have ensured that young talent in India play with global players. Platforms are being created for the people of India to showcase their talent and take the name of the nation forward. In sports, we always remember what our coach say – The name in front is more important than the name on the back.
Looking at the current trend in India, it can be proposed that private players under their corporate social responsibility can take up development of sports in the country. Examples of such initiatives can be Mary Kom’s training academy that is sponsored by Tata, while Reliance has been training young champions in football. This is the way forward for the country. We need investments in creating adequate sports infrastructure in smaller towns and rural areas. We cannot be a nation that plays cricket with a tennis ball, when we already are two times world champions.
By Rahul Choudhury
Media Team – Fiinovation