Can Assam become India’s sports hub?

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The overall sports scene of the region

– Jyotirmoy Barpujari – 

The North Eastern states in India are home to some of India’s most recognised international players. People like M.C.Mary Kom with 2012 Olympics bronze medal and five world amateur-boxing champion trophies, footballer Baichung Bhutia, boxer L. Sarita Devi with silver medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Jayanta Talukdar with gold medal and Arjuna Award, weightlifter K. Sanjita Chanu with gold at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games,etc. have already put the region in the world map in a glorious way. While North East India constitutes only about3.7% of the total Indian population, the youth out there are well-known for their inclination towards sports.

Assam and Manipur have synthetic athletic tracks for all-weather competitions. These states have good number of sponsorships from corporate giants and other public sector-undertakings which help in promoting physical educationand sports in the region. Children are motivated to participate in sports from a young age and the general opinion of the people here is that physical education should be implemented as a compulsory part of school and collegecurriculums.

As the present NDA government is committed to development of sports and North East the Sports Authority of India(SAI) also set up the first office of its Chairperson in Guwahati in 2015 with the help of then Union Sports MinisterSarbananda Sonowal, which is facilitating North Eastern sportspersons to get an easy access to the Ministry For TheDevelopment of Sports. 22.3% (901 out of 4031) of girl trainees at SAI centres are trained in the North Eastern Statesof Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. They are provided with regular sports training in 27 sports disciplines on residential and non-residential basis in 290 SAI sports centres.

After Mr. Sonowal became the Chief Minister of Assam he took it as a challenge to make Assam the national sportscapital of India. As Mr. Sonowal mentioned, “We began a journey to make Assam a global sports hub with the SouthAsian Games. Every championship will take us closer to that goal.” He is a firm believer that if talent is properlyharnessed, the North East can produce more sportspersons who can represent the nation at world events. Assamand the North East have so much of raw talent that goes unnoticed and several budding sportspersons end up at thedistrict and state level.

Being a storehouse of talent, the region is being accorded top priority by the government. Prime Minister NarendraModi has instructed every ministry to accord priority to developmental schemes in the North East because India cannot progress without adequate progress in the North-East region. In sports they have taken immediate steps to hold the Himalayan Region Games in North-East Region. It seems that the Sports Ministry along with the Human Resource Development Ministry are trying to integrate sports with education for the all-round development of thechildren.

With North Eastern boxers like Mary Kom, Shiva Thapa, L. Sarita Devi and Devendro Singh Boxing has given identity to India at the international level, including Olympics. Guwahati is all set to host the biggest football extravaganza in theworld, the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The state government realises the importance of hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 and have given complete support, as this event will be critical in the Chief Minister’s vision of makingAssam the sports hub of India. It recently had the India Myanmar Thailand (IMT) car rally and again the state is planning to organise a Brahmaputra Festival to integrate the traditional sports and culture. As a baby step towardsAssam’s goal of making Guwahati the Sports Capital of the country, the 1st Elite (Senior) Men’s National Boxing Championship 2016-17, which is the first major event organised in two years by the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) washosted by the state. The State is hopeful that it will have many tournaments of such stature in the days to come.

It is a matter of pride for the region that sportspersons have given back to their communities by supporting andguiding young athletes from their native lands. Mary Kom Regional Boxing Foundation and the chain of BhaichungBhutia Football Schools are great examples of this. With the presence of football clubs like Shillong Lajong FC, Aizawl FC, North-East United FC, Royal Waliingdoh FC and a host of local sides from the Shillong, Manipur or Mizoram football leagues, people’s following for the sport in the region has seen a steady growth over the last fewdecades.

Apart from Assam, most of the state governments of the region have been putting in a lot of efforts to upgrade thestadiums as well as the practice sites. Hope all these well-considered measures would help materialising the dreams of North Eastern people about sports and create world class players India can be proud of.

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About the Author

Jyotirmoy Barpujari

Author and columnist

The author is a writer and columnist based in Guwahati.

Disclaimer : The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of INVC NEWS.

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