In Delhi, getting facilities for promoting a sport like football is a huge problem because most of them are in the hands of government and municipality. It is not accessible to players. And even if it’s accessible, it is hugely expensive and not affordable. The organisation itself struggles to get a fund. So naturally for an individual player, it is much more difficult. Therefore, access to the facilities is definitely an issue.
In school, the students don’t get the encouragement from the school management itself. Thus, many children do not pursue sports. The parents also do not support much because the school is not supportive.
Sports is being commercialised with a greater speed. But at the same time, it is not regulated well. There are sports academies and training centres but not all of them provide a good service. They charge a lot, but the service provided is not up to the mark according to the fee. The facilities they provide are sub-standard which impacts the budding players and also those who are entering the sports world. If they don’t get the right kind of experience, then they tend to leave sports and take up some other career.
The young sports players who are under training and are aiming to become professional players, they don’t get scientific support like sports science and sports medicine. Sometimes potential talents don’t get the scope of growing in this field due to this reason. One injury or one wrong guidance can take a different turn. These really hamper the whole progress.
Funding is a major issue. Mostly the corporates or the government grants are only available if a sportsman wins something. But at the starting level, there is lack of support: 99% of the sports community does not get proactive support. We have potential, but it is never realised. The right support does not come at the right time. More support should come at the grass root level. And the grass root level is all about participation, not about winning. But if there is no funding at the grass root level then the participation will not grow and the quality of engagement will not become better. Therefore, the level of funding is a huge challenge for associations who are trying to work on it but cannot.
The government must come up with a policy which is sports friendly and encourages more participation. Very few players are playing the right way, at the right environment. Thereby we fail to get that end product. Participation has to grow and it should not be based on excellence at the very beginning.
High performance facility is another problem we face in India. To train and build elite athletes is a different ball game altogether. That kind competence, people, infrastructure, mindset and support to athletes is not provided. Providing facilities just three or five months before the Asian Games does not work. For eight, ten or twelve years, such consistent support should exist. That level of scientific support for the elite athletes and competitive exposure is required.
Hopefully in the future we overcome these problems with proper investment and right strategy because today, the end result is nowhere what the country wants. The government has to work closely with all the national associations. There should not be any duplication of effort. The organisation which is responsible for a particular sport, their hands should be strengthened and they should get the support required.
Shaji Prabhakaran is the president of Delhi Soccer Association. He is the former FIFA South Central Development Officer.
— As told to Shruti Das