We need more space, multi-sport avenues and more matches for kids
Sports in the city is in a poor state currently. A lot has to be done to improve this. You see tons of people playing cricket, but only cricket. Yet, even in cricket, very few pitches that people play on are good. The outfield, too, is often in a very bad shape. Maidans for cricket are usually badly maintained. At grounds like Azad Maidan, where there are 100 matches going on simultaneously, people run the risk getting hurt from stray shots from nearby matches.
Apart than cricket, very few people are actually playing other sport. The big problem we have in Mumbai is the absence of playgrounds. Our open spaces need to be preserved, protected and maintained, especially those owned by the BMC and the government. We need to preserve it only for sport and not for other activities.
I also think we need to encourage all types of sport as much as possible. Take hockey, for example. If you see for the last 15-20 years, Mumbai has just one player at a time playing in the Indian team. There was Dhanraj Pillay, then there was me, and now there is Yuvraj Walmiki and Devinder Walmiki. But there is just one-odd player here and there, sometimes two, in the Indian squad. There was a time in the 1990s when there used to be five or six members from Mumbai in the Indian team.
Play Day: Mumbai’s iconic Shivaji Park is full of players but we need more parks and more games besides cricket. Pic/Satyajit Desai
Today, there is no culture of hockey in Mumbai. There will be 8-10 schools playing in the inter-school hockey tournament. In inter-college tournaments, maybe just two-three colleges playing. Sports have to be encouraged more seriously in schools and colleges. Mumbai’s schools are taking sports as an extra-curricular activity. We need to make it an integral part of education in schools.
It needs to be thought out how to make it an integral part, whether to give extra marks in the SSC exams or to give additional marks to play sports to a certain level like a district tournament etc.
Talent Spotting: Former India hockey captain Olympic Gold Quest CEO Viren Rasquinha with OGQ junior scholarship wrestler Arun from Sonepat, Haryana
Sport teaches you so many life lessons. Playing sport is one of the easiest ways of teaching life lessons to our kids, a fact we tend to underestimate. Playing a sport also teaches you things like discipline, teamwork and communication skills. Most importantly, it teaches you to come back from defeat.
We should encourage a better culture of being outdoor people and playing outdoor sports. Kids need to utilise their summer vacations by playing a sport the whole day, be it swimming, football, hockey, cricket or anything outdoors. I grew up playing hockey in the bylanes of Bandra. When I was in school, during our summer vacations, I remember, around 30-40 kids playing hockey or football in a bylane. Today you don’t see any kids playing at all. They are all on their mobiles, which I think is extremely unhealthy. Kids know all the latest video and computer games but they don’t know how to play football, hockey and cricket! Due to this, we are suffering health-wise and value-wise. I think we need to get our kids playing outdoors more and it has to come from parents.
As told to Amit Kamath
Viren Rasquinha is a hockey Olympian and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ).
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