-By RK Nimai
The Second Foundation Day of the National Sports University was held at Khuman Lampak Sports Complex with fanfare with the Union Sports Secretary Radheshyam Julaniya as the function chief guest. Some iconic players of yesteryears from Manipur were also on the dais, which makes those in attendance nostalgic. There was, however, something on the back of my mind–whether the observation was the second foundation day or the second anniversary of the Foundation Day. The University was set rolling on January 16, 2017 amid the election campaign for the Manipur State Assembly and this year’s version should have been the 3rd Foundation Day or the 2nd Anniversary of the Foundation Day. The observation was a success, with tremendous effort by the fledgling university and full cooperation from all concerned be it the administration wing, the faculty and the teachers. Hats off to all of those involved in the organisation.
However, the bad taste came with the comments made during the visit by the Union Secretary Sports inside the KLSC and the SAI Complex, wherein he made some observations at the spur which made many players and their parents agitated. He was given the credit for approving the site plan of the University campus at Koutruk which was lying in limbo for quite some time, delaying execution of the civil works which can now been started in real earnest.
NSU which is run at the temporary campus in KLSC will faced serious accommodation problems during the next few years till it is shifted to its permanent campus as the accommodation there is limited. And every efforts need to be made to ensure that sufficient accommodation for lecture, practical and housing are made available, which cannot be all accommodated in KLSC as it is being used by other sportsperson of the state, including the regular coaching centre players. His off the cuff remarks had made many to think he is shooting off without even trying to understand the issue at hand.
As a part of the restructuring SAI, the STC at Takyelpat was closed down. Earlier in NCOE there were 3 disciplines that is wushu, weightlifting and fencing which is now increased to 11 that are besides the said three athletics, archery, football, hockey, cycling, kabaddi, taekwondo and sepak tekraw were transferred from the erstwhile STC of which kabaddi, taekwondo and sepak tekraw may face the axe. Handball had already been discontinued. His remarks to discontinue sepak tekraw in SAI was met with severe resistance from the parents and the players, who had just returned with national gold medals in their kitty in both men and women event. It is a discipline where India won a bronze medal in the 2018 Asian Games in the men’s regu event. This is a discipline suited for the Manipuris and they have been doing well both at the national and international circuit and the closure of the facility for this game in SAI will hurt not only the players but also India’s standing in the Asian level.
During his inspection of KLSC he made various remarks including that the Centre will not provide further support for development of infrastructure as KLSC is well developed. Perhaps he meant by the civil structures without realising that sports infrastructure includes equipment, which need to be changed regularly to keep up with the technological advancement as well as to replace the old ones. Besides, physical infrastructure needs to be put in place at the district, block and village level, though of lower standard to tap young talent. KLSC will be open mainly to the elite sportspersons of the state in addition to the regular coaching being held. His remark that the facility here is underutilised was met with surprise by all those in attendance, as the facilities in KLSC is one of the most utilised in the country. Yes better utilisation by rotation can be carried out which Department of YAS can plan and execute. His comment of dust everywhere inside the indoor stadia is well taken and YAS need to procure some industrial grade or heavy duty vacuum cleaners to do the dusting. Sweeping does not help as the dust particles rises when swept which falls down again and therefore the only way is to keep it clean is to vacuum clean them.
His visit to Special Area Games of SAI at KLSC where inmates of 9 disciplines- boxing, weightlifting, judo, wrestling, fencing, gymnastic, wushu, karate and swimming were trained and asked to close six and retain only three was met with wonder while the inmates protested. This will also lead to agitation from the inmates and sports lovers in Manipur. This SAG has been providing excellent support and had produced players of international repute and continues to do so and closure will be a retrograde step, no doubt. Sports is now a complex sector and any tinkering without in-depth study will only lead to confusion. It is like the syllabus of school education where piece meal tinkering is creating havoc now with most of our students unemployable and despite a few policy, the desired result is still far off. We will watch the impact of the New Education Policy of 2019.
Ground level management must be left to the lower level technical officials and not be the top honcho whose knowledge in the field is limited. He should concentrate on the overall policy to make India into a sporting prowess. Micro managing from the top will only lead to chaos as was witnessed on a number of occasions where our ministers will announce something without any study at the spur of the moment but are non-implementable.
KLSC need modern equipment and our coaches need to undergo regular reorientation courses. The most important aspect is the maintenance for which hardly any fund is provided and this should be catered by the state government. The state government may not be able to establish a High Performance Lab due to the cost and skilled manpower required but it is our hope that NSU will be having it to cater to elite sportsperson of the country and as a fall out benefit the top players of the state.
YAS officials, SAI officials and NSU officials need to sit together to work out the requirement of NSU which can be provided by YAS and SAI for the time being before the completion of the facilities at Koutruk. With the Centre of Excellence under Tata Trusts coming up shortly, they will need a dedicated football field and a hostel for which an MOU had already been entered into with the state government; one hostel and one practice field will be taken over by them. This will leave only one practice field for football inside KLSC, which was envisaged for hockey but as hockey does not use the natural turf ground due to its unevenness, it can be used for football. With the facility for National Sports Academy limited and part of which is used by NSU, NSA cannot further provide additional facilities. Thus there will be serious problem in the coming years for NSU; which need to be worked out in advance.
The observation for sharing of facility is reasonable and justified but it requires detailed study as practice can’t be carried out throughout the day. The facility also need rest, especially natural turf. The proposed discontinuation of 6 disciplines in SAG is perhaps linked to providing more accommodation of the NSU; but a detailed study need to be carried out before disciplines are axed.
Disciplines under SAG may be transferred to NCOE and duplication may be avoided. It must be remembered that the players from Manipur and in other parts of the country comes from poor family and need support for diet, kits, etc for them to rise to the top. Any hasty act will put the career of a large number of players in jeopardy.
The visit by the highest bureaucrat in sports in the country was welcomed by all sports lovers but his utterances made people to think whether he understood the complexity of sports and its development. And whether he can be the pivot for raising the standard of Indian sports? His observation will only make the state government and the people of Manipur annoyed which is not in the interest of sports as a whole.
There is a need of concerted effort to ensure that the career of the inmates of STC and SAG are secured and training in the various disciplines are continued, including handball. Otherwise the future of sports in Manipur will be bleak. It made one wonder whether the steps proposed to be taken is to reduce the prowess of our sportsperson who brought laurels both for the state and the country.Union Sports Secretary Radheshyam Julaniya ]