There is no point talking about history in sports. We had won gold in Olympics, we had won many Asian Games gold, too. But history remains history and performance remains performance. What matters is performance, and I like to live in the present moment. With regard to Tamil Nadu’s representation in India teams, I would like to emphasise that I don’t like to go by numbers. What is the point of talking about a State’s presence when there is no system to promote sports?
The most important factor in sports is structure, which unfortunately is absent in Tamil Nadu. I would blame the education system for this situation. Two things are required to develop a sports culture: awareness, and the government’s willingness to spend money on it.
I will not agree if you tell me the Chief Minister’s Trophy hat the government holds every year is not a healthy exercise. That is money spent for a cause. If children don’t turn up for those meets, that is a different issue. That only shows your failure on many other fronts. If you understand that you are found wanting in some area, you should take corrective measures. It is one thing to say 37 per cent of our population is unhealthy; what matters is, what is being done to rectify it. In most of the countries, measures are taken to rectify the mistakes. But it does not happen here.
I don’t know how many are aware that the AL Mudaliar Inter-University meet used to attract quite a number of budding talents in Chennai. Nowadays, however, the turnout is minimal. When we played, the sports season ended only in February. But today, everything is over by August to keep the students to the confines of the school/college curriculum. It all boils down to education.
Basically, the system is at fault. Is the government monitoring the schools and colleges when they take huge money at the time of admission? If the admission fee is Rs five lakh at a particular school, it is for the government to see to it that the school spares time, effort and money to promote sports on its campus. Look how Gopichand has developed a system to create champions in badminton. There, the government has signed an MoU with him for the project which is funded by it. Leading badminton player PV Sindhu was spotted even before she was 10 or 11 years of age and trained by Gopichand. If you say Loganathan in Pudukkottai has been churning out talented athletes such as Surya and Lakshmanan and many others, the question is, why hasn’t the TN government taken it under its wings and help nurture talents? Basically, every State should find its own discipline to promote. Kerala is good in football and it should invite IM Vijayan to start a project. But I am not able to say which is Tamil Nadu’s core sport. And therein lies the problem.
— V Baskaran is a veteran hockey player who captained the Indian team that won the Olympic Gold in Moscow 1980, and the former chief coach of the national team.