Sportsmen struggle to keep heads above water

- May 20, 2020
| By : Shaunak Ghosh |

Coronavirus has brought sports to a halt severely impacting the livelihood of all sportspersons Coronavirus has brought life as we know it to a standstill. Sporting events across the world have been put on hold impacting the lives of individuals associated with them. Tournaments like the Olympics, the IPL and the T20 World Cup have […]

Coronavirus has brought sports to a halt severely impacting the livelihood of all sportspersons

Coronavirus has brought life as we know it to a standstill. Sporting events across the world have been put on hold impacting the lives of individuals associated with them. Tournaments like the Olympics, the IPL and the T20 World Cup have been indefinitely postponed and even practice sessions have been halted. Amidst all this, the ones who have been severely affected have been the athletes — not those who earn big bucks — but the ones who depend solely on their sport for their livelihood.

Pawan Kumar

Pawan Kumar started playing golf at a tender age, and rose through the ranks of the Delhi Golf Club, with the help of the program which provides training for underprivileged but talented golfers. His father is a caddie, who could never succeed as a professional golfer and wanted to see his son make his name in the sport.

Both Pawan and his father’s dreams came true a year ago, when he became professional and started earning from the sport he loved so much. He began participating in tournaments and earning plaudits, along with which came the perk of making money while practising his avocation.

“I earned enough from participating both in nationwide and local tournaments and supported the family and my income brought a certain stability to the household”, he says.

However, once the Coronavirus started spreading its jaws, it affected Indian golf too. The PGA tours in India, which were to be held in Gujarat, Pune, Noida and Chandigarh were indefinitely postponed. The annual Indian Open to be held in New Delhi also suffered the same fate.

Deepak Dagar

Now, this has led to the drying up of fees that these tournaments offered. “There is no money to even buy food. Whatever little I had saved from my earnings are gone”, says a worried Pawan. The delay of tournaments also means that Pawan’s father’s income has frozen. “We are a family of five and it is very difficult to sustain with our little savings.

“At least now we have some food, but once the supply of food that we have finishes, we don’t know whether we will be able to purchase any more,” he worries.

Pawan goes as far as saying that he wants a new job right now, but that too is not possible due to the nationwide lockdown. “Ab to sadak pe baithna padega lagta hai (We have to sit on the roads now, it seems)”, he says with a heavy heart.

For chessboxer Subhajit Das, Coronavirus has created a bigger worry. He fears the sport and tournaments would not resume even after the lockdown is over because of the contact nature of the sport.

“Our sport anyways doesn’t get the recognition since it is relatively new,” says Subhajit, who fears that the lockdown will also hamper the prospect of the sport in India.

Chessboxing tournaments across the country have been called off or postponed, and there is no money for chess boxers like Subhajit. “Anyways people don’t take me seriously as a sportsman, and now if the future of chessboxing is at stake my sports career may hit a dead end” he says with regret.

For rugby player and captain of the Delhi Rebels rugby team, Deepak Dagar, the lockdown has impacted his mental health more than his finances. “My income from the sport has stopped but thankfully I work as a teacher and the money earned from there is somehow helping me survive.

“The main difficulties I am facing are the lack of outdoor training. It gets a little difficult when as an athlete we are unable to keep to our training.”

Subhajit Das

In rugby, skills are the most important so not being able to practice is also a hurdle that he is trying to overcome. “Not practicing my skills will distort my muscle memory and when I eventually return to the game, it will take time for me to get back in form, and I may even lose some of my skills”, he worries

“Although I have been doing home workouts, not training with my team is a huge minus”, says Dagar.

Footballs big two in shambles

The Indian players of I-league champions and one of the most followed football clubs in the country, Mohun Bagan, have not been given their due salaries for the past few days owing to a financial crunch within club quarters due to the lockdown.

It is learnt that the players have dues ranging from one month to three months and have written a letter to the management demanding the dues.

The players have said they want at least a month’s salary by this week and the rest at the earliest. They have sought a deadline by which the officials would clear their dues in full, including performance bonuses, or they may seek the All India Football Federation’s intervention.

The club management has replied to them and said they are trying to make the payments as soon as possible.

The club has assured the players that everyone will be paid their full salaries as per the contractual obligations and no pay cut will be made. The club also said that the performance bonus would be paid once the championship money from AIFF is received.

“The players have written to us. We will pay the players in full, including their incentives. Our sponsors are stuck in Mumbai and until the situation there improves, it will be difficult for them to pay us. We have been told that once the lockdown in Mumbai gets lifted, payments will be made within a week. As soon as we receive the money, we will release it to the players,” the club’s finance secretary Debasish Dutta said. If this can happen to one of the most reputed clubs in India, then is it not difficult to imagine the condition of smaller clubs and their players.

East Bengal has terminated contracts with their players applying the force majeure clause. Some of the footballers have sought help from the Football Players’ Association of India

From glory to hunger

The family of Nagpur based international level athlete Jyoti Chauhan was among other citizens and labourers who have been badly affected by the lockdown.

Chauhan, a 25-year-old steeplechase runner, who has won several medals at the national and international levels, defied poverty and rose to become an international level athlete.

Despite her status, her family was forced to stand in line at a ration shop in their area to collect the relief food packages being distributed by the government.

Jyothi Chauhan

Jyoti’s parents stay in Panchsheelnagar slum in Isasani suburb which is 14 km away from Nagpur. Her father, Jungbahadur, works as a mason and her mother Sushila works as a househelp. With the lockdown in effect, the family’s source of income has been put on hold.

With no sporting events in the calendar, Jyoti too has been left without a source of income.

Jyoti says that she had applied and even landed jobs in the CISF and police force, on the merit of her accomplishments on the track. However, due to the freeze in recruitment brought on by the lockdown, Jyoti’s job opportunities were lost.

With no income and the responsibility to feed five family members, Jyoti ran out of savings, thereby standing in long queues at local food distribution centres.

(Cover Image: Mohun Bagan bears a forlorn look amidst the lockdown)