Viren Rasquinha, former captain of the Indian field hockey team, just wrote a heartfelt letter in the Indian Express to Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, India’s third largest state. In the letter, which is written in the context of the upcoming Rio Olympics this year, Rasquinha touches on some points that a lot of us sports fans in India feel very deeply about. And while it is written to an administrator in India, we believe that the points Viren has raised are applicable to cities and nations across the world.
Here are some of the issues that resonated with us:
On poor field conditions:
“They’re uneven and the players are often at risk of twisting ankles while running. However, that’s only the problem with the grounds that do exist.”
On the lack of open spaces:
(Besides cricket) “There are virtually no playing fields for other sports like football and hockey.”
On the use of sports venues:
” …the sanctity of such venues must be kept in place given that most of the prized open spaces are let out for weddings or other such occasions.”
On encouragement for sports (other than cricket):
” …there needs to be an increase in the degree of encouragement extended to all types of sport. I remember a time in my youth when Mumbai hockey rivalled the city’s cricket production line. There were as many as four or five players from Mumbai playing in the national team. Today, there is only Devinder Walmiki.”
On accessibility of sporting venues to the public:
“Indoor sports like badminton, table tennis, squash etc face another set of hurdles. The games are restricted to elite clubs, which demand an entry fee too astronomical for the general masses. Needless to say, there are no such public playing courts available for sports like these.”
And probably the most important one to our minds, on developing a culture of supporting sport among parents and school teachers:
“I feel that there is a need to instill a culture of supporting sport within parents and school teachers. The latest gadgets available in the market has filled in the void left by the lack of outdoor playing areas. Nonetheless, a change in the attitude of adults, where parents and teachers promote and recommend sporting involvement, will further increase the talent pool.”
Yes, it is true that most of these issues demand governmental and administrative support. However, there are things that we can change in our respective spheres of influence to make sport a way of life for youth in India. Not just kids going to expensive private international schools, but also those overcoming great odds to even make it to their municipal school classrooms every day. The time for us to act is now.
For those of you who may not know, Viren Rasquinha, is an MBA from the prestigious Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad and CEO of Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), a not-for-profit that offers support to elite athletes from various disciplines. They do fantastic work scouting hidden talents from across the country, grooming them for international competition and giving these athletes access to the best training available in their respective sports. You can help by making a contribution to OGQ here.