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Lack of proper sporting infrastructure at grassroots level hurting Mumbai youngsters

For far too long, inter-school and inter-college tournaments have been organised in a way that can only be described as indifferent. Only last year, this paper had written about how the Mumbai University’s inter-college football tournament was being conducted on grounds like Goregaon’s Anna Bhau Sathe ground, which posed as a danger to players’ well-being.

Besides the ground being in an abysmal state for football, there were also no medical facilities, drinking water or changing rooms at the ground. It is conditions like these which have nipped many a budding sportsman’s careers in the bud — after all, who would want to continue playing a sport if all they get for their trouble is such shabby treatment?

The lack of proper playing infrastructure at the grassroots level is one of the biggest problems the city faces. If we want players from the city to compete on the international level, we must also give them opportunities of international level to hone their skills.

GROUNDS FOR GROUSE: We need better facilities for our youngsters if we are going to produce international level athletes. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Grounds for grouse: We need better facilities for our youngsters if we are going to produce international level athletes. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Change and range
Inter-school tournaments conducted by the Mumbai Schools Sports Association and the District Sports Office (DSO) for various sporting disciplines, are where children get an opportunity to showcase their talent. But when it comes to providing facilities to this budding sporting talent, boys or girls, the authorities hardly seem to care about the basics.

Hang on: Kabaddi on at Azad Maidan, the maidan is often used for political rallies and meetings too. Pic/Shadab Khan
Hang on: Kabaddi on at Azad Maidan, the maidan is often used for political rallies and meetings too. Pic/Shadab Khan

Things are worse for girls. Authorities have shown repeatedly that providing facilities like clean toilets and changing rooms are not on their priority. There have been various instances at St Francis D’Assisi ground in Borivali or St Xavier’s ground in Parel, when the girls participating in such tournaments face shabby treatment from the tournament organisers. 

STRETCHER SCENE: An injured footballer being carried off at a Parel ground. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abdei
Stretcher scene: An injured footballer being carried off at a Parel ground. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abdei

That is one of the reasons parents do not encourage their kids to participate in outdoor sporting activities. At some venues, there are liquor bottles and broken glass pieces lying in the seating area.  Inebriated men loiter around the place ogling at the girls. Until proper action is taken like measures for safety are introduced and hygiene is taken care of we cannot expect our country to produce international level athletes. These issues may seem trivial, but they are vital and need to be addressed urgently.

Age page
It is often seen that players fudge their age and continue playing in a younger age group for years. The age fudging menace has existed for a long time, but a solution has not been found. Last year, an inter-school cricketer from a reputed school was under investigation for submitting incorrect age proof documents.

DIVING THROUGH: Boys take the aerial route as they ready to break the water at Shivaji Park swimming pool. The city needs more such facilities. Pic/SATYAJIT DESAI
Diving through: Boys take the aerial route as they ready to break the water at Shivaji Park swimming pool. The city needs more such facilities. Pic/Satyajit Desai

He did not face any severe punishment that such a misdemeanour warrants. In football, players’ names and ages have been changed without the school authorities having a clue of the same. On questioning the school body, they said that since no proper evidence could be traced they could not take any action. In individual sports like badminton or table tennis, players forge their age so that they can remain champions in one age category for a long time. Even at national level, many shuttlers were found to be over-age. But since there is no foolproof solution many a times, despite knowing that the player is overage, the younger players are at the receiving end. They are then forced to compete with players much older to them.

Refereeing/ umpiring
There are various reasons why the standard of referring is not upto the mark. Firstly, the referees are not paid well, resulting in fewer people taking it up as a profession. Secondly, they are not qualified since most of them do it out of passion. Last, but not the least, they are not well taken care of.

TWIST LIST: Mallakhamb at Shivaji Park, the nursery of Mumbai cricket, has also gone international. Pic/SAYYED SAMEER ABEDI
Twist list: Mallakhamb at Shivaji Park, the nursery of Mumbai cricket, has also gone international. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Apart from the human errors, even as the whole world is moving ahead as far as technology in training or referring is concerned, we are still far behind when it comes to usage of technology at grassroots level. All this combined results in poor standards of referring/umpiring and it is the players who suffer in the end.

Ouch, that hurts
Injuries are a part and parcel of any sporting discipline. It is vital to have medical help available when tournaments are conducted at any level — club, district, state or national. Instances when athletes have been injured and suffered due to lack of medical help have been reported in the past.

HIGH POINT: An athlete goes for the Fosbury Flop technique at a schools meet at University Stadium, Marine Lines. PIC/ATUL KAMBLE
High point: An athlete goes for the Fosbury Flop technique at a schools meet at University Stadium, Marine Lines. Pic/Atul Kamble

They are often taken to hospital without any help from the organisers. To get away from blame the organisers add a simple clause, which reads that they will not be responsible for any incident on the field and that the school/clubs should take care of their medical needs. Injured players have being wheeled in to hospital after being left unattended for hours. Often, there  is no ice available at the venue leaving young athletes in pain till they are given proper medical help. There are shocking incidents of negligence and downright irresponsibility. Indian sport has often got a bloody nose, metaphorically speaking though, in the international arena. If we are going to become a truly great multi-sport nation, the way to start is from the first rung — paying attention to detail and giving great importance to local, school level sport.

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