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Kerala still in celebratory mood after Asiad impression

A. Vinod


The more than impressive show of these sportspersons have also triggered a self-evaluation of the Kerala sports scene


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Guangzhou Asian Games, of course, is part of history by now. Yet, Kerala continues to bask in the glory of its sportspersons who contributed as many as 11 of the 64 medals won by India in the continental event, its best ever showing in the history of the Games.

In fact, there is a sense of déjà vu in the frenzied celebrations as the show by its athletes in China is a duplication of the good old days witnessed in Seoul in 1986 and Busan in 2002. Doha 2006 was more or less a disappointment with Kerala hardly being able to showcase its full worth.

And because of all this, the celebratory mood is not only pre-eminent in the urban areas but also in villages across the State, giving way to intense debates on the running styles of Preeja Sreedharan, Joseph G. Abraham, Tintu Luka and Sini Jose or the calibre in other medallists like Jenil Krishnan, Saji Thomas, Shermi Ulahannan and G.N. Gopal in disciplines like rowing, kabaddi and chess.

Red-carpet welcome

Not to be left behind, the Government too is gearing up to provide a red-carpet welcome to the medallists when they return home, announcing special cash awards to the new heroes at its next Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The more than impressive show of these sportspersons have also triggered a self-evaluation of the Kerala sports scene and many aspects related to it including matters like various schemes promoted by the State Sports Council, the funding pattern and basic infrastructure, to name only a few.

It is only to become more louder in the days to come as Kerala would like to come up with an even better showing in Incheon, South Korea in 2014.

While it is true that the Sports Council's initiative of providing training to selected boys and girls in various disciplines at its Sports Divisions and Hostels have been widely successful, what in fact Kerala lacks at this critical juncture is a meaningful follow-up programme to train the more talented athletes emerging out of the Sports Divisions and Hostels, sound training and competition facilities and sufficient resources.

Meagre resources

Despite it being the apex body with statutory powers, the KSSC is left only with meagre resources, what with its annual Plan outlay having remained stagnant around the region of Rs. 10 to 12 crore through the last five years or so. This again despite the Sports Minister M. Vijayakumar having taken up the matter with the Planning Board and the Finance Department on more than one occasion and even going to the extent of stating the demand in public repeatedly.

Observers are unanimous in their opinion that unless sufficient resources are made available, there could be only stagnation as the KSSC is already left with the arduous task of juggling its Government-allotted grants to the pulls and pressures of various State sports associations.

And in this context, it is only certain that there could be more than the routine interest when the State Planning Board meets the Sports Department officials in finalising the annual Plan outlay for 2011-12 on December 2. Incidentally, the State Sports Commission, headed by A.K. Pandya, had recommended in 2009 the introduction of 0.50 per cent cess on the tax collected from the sale of Indian Made Foreign Liquor in the State as a remedy to overcome the problem of insufficient funding for sports activities but little seems to have been done in this regard.

While the question of infrastructure for competitions is likely to be overcome with the new sporting edifices being established in connection with the 35th National Games in seven districts across the State, it would be interesting to see how the powers-that-be react to the other problems like the issue of having sound training facilities, particularly indoors, and likewise in the case of follow-up training programmes in the days to come. Summing up the whole gamut of issues, Olympian Suresh Babu, who is expected to head the ‘Go for Gold' scheme connected with the training of elite athletes commencing January 2011, said that it would be better off if the Council concentrated more on a list of priority disciplines rather than spreading its meagre resources on a whole variety of disciplines.

In his opinion, the State could also be rewarded if more competitions are introduced at the school level and training programmes are approached in a more systematic and scientific manner.

“These are nothing new. It has been discussed time and again but it is high time we took steps to implement our decisions.

The sportspersons really deserve it,” Suresh Babu said. Indeed, they do.

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