Heartless deception

It is nothing short of a miracle that Assam has been producing sporting talents like Shiva Thapa, Jayanta Talukdar or Krish Das, albeit once in a blue moon. But they have ploughed a lonely furrow, with some help from coaches, mentors or family members — while the system largely ignored them till they succeeded against all odds. How sports officialdom in Assam usually nurses budding talents was shown up again in sorry light when the Assam Wrestling Academy was abruptly closed down last Thursday. The fates of as many as 40 trainees, selected only three months back after a series of district level camps, are now up in the air. They had been asked to bring along academic certificates and promised admission in Guwahati schools. But with their sporting careers cruelly nipped in the bud, they are also dreading loss of a full academic year as they head back homewards. The sports authority missive to district commissioners to get them re-admitted in their home districts offers small comfort. Their sad story began when the Sports Authority of Assam launched with much fanfare ‘the first residential state-of-the-art wrestling academy to facilitate local talents’. An amount of Rs 98 lakh was released under State plan to start the academy and its first session kicked off at Rajiv Gandhi Indoor stadium in Amingaon on February 28 this year. Then came elections in April, with polling officials taking over the stadium. The trainees were first shifted to the Nehru stadium which has no wrestling facilities, and then packed off home for Bihu holidays. Suspecting the worst, some of the trainees sat on dhar in front of the State Sports Directorate office but were whisked off by the police for their pains. After they were let off, they were handed copies of a notice that their academy has been closed until further notice, and they should now return home. All this while, not a single sports official had the courage or courtesy to meet them and explain the situation. But then, such callous disregard for budding sportspersons is not surprising among our sports officials. Most of them do not have an iota of sporting talent themselves. They can hardly comprehend or imagine what it would be like to be born with such talent, to dream of achieving glory in the are with sweat, blood, guts and tears, to struggle mightily to capitalize on that all-too-brief sunshine period before their sporting careers are over. It is the same mindset that made former Assam Cricket Association secretary Bikash Baruah lock up in his office drawer cheques sent by the BCCI to help upcoming cricketers in the State. Baruah could not have encashed the cheques in his me, so the only reason he never got around to distribute these to the intended beneficiaries must have been sheer bloody-mindedness. Struggling cricketers were deprived of cash support when they must have needed it the most, but then stories of Baruah’s misbehavior with cricketers are legion. Sadly, many of his clones are still scurrying about in the corridors of power within the State’s sports administration, misappropriating huge funds meant for developing sports, playing ducks and drakes with the careers of sportspersons. If the kind of talent base exists in Assam as sports planners believe, our people may yet take pride in the exploits of a future world-beating wrestler from the State. But chances are, such a talent will emerge in spite of the system, not because of it.

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Sentinel Assam