Honouring the greats

An Olympian gets his due... Michael Ferreira greets former India hockey player Dung Dung, who was honoured as ’Unsung Hero’ and awarded Rs. 5 lakh.-

“Recognition to sportspersons via the Sahara Awards will inspire young boys and girls to win honours for India,” said the ‘Unsung Hero’ Dung Dung. He received a standing ovation from the gathering.

Sylvanus Dung Dung needs money to overcome his financial crisis, but recognition is equally important for the former India hockey player just as it is for many other international sportspersons who fade silently into the twilight after a blaze of glory.

A member of the Indian hockey squad that won the gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Dung Dung was conferred the honour of ‘Unsung Hero’ and awarded Rs. five lakh at the Sahara Indian Sports Awards (SISA) function in Mumbai recently. Former billiards star and member of the SISA jury, Michael Ferreira, who is one of the most articulate sporting achievers in India, greeted Dung Dung and presented him the cheque as the Olympian walked into the spotlight after years of darkness following his retirement.

“Recognition to sportspersons via the Sahara Awards will inspire young boys and girls to win honours for India,” Dung Dung said in appreciation. He received a standing ovation from the gathering.

For a man who showed immense confidence on the hockey field, Dung Dung had a tough time facing up to the challenges in real life after his retirement.

Former Indian badminton star Prakash Padukone was honoured as the ‘Greatest Indian Sportsperson’ for his achievement as a player, coach, organiser and administrator. Padukone continues to give back to the game through his badminton academies in different cities. He is also associated with a project that funds sportspersons who are considered to be Olympic gold medal prospects.

The chairman of the SISA jury, Sunil Gavaskar, said that the former world number one badminton player is the greatest for his achievements during his active career and contributions after retirement, and for the respect he commands across the sports fraternity. “Prakash’s footwork was the most remarkable aspect of his game. After retirement, he got into coaching and developed talented youngsters,” the former India opening batsman said.

India is indeed fortunate to have world-class achievers like Padukone who promote sports in various capacities. When asked if he had anything to say, the soft-spoken former badminton icon said: “I would like to tell you about two things that I tried, and they worked. The first was to avoid controversies and train hard. The second was about not getting worked up over things not in your control, like selection.”

It is an advice well-meant, though difficult to implement in Indian sport, particularly with the administrators and selectors taking sportspersons for granted.

Padukone had raised the flag of rebellion once, taking on the national badminton federation before realising that it was better to focus his energy on positive aspects like coaching.

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Karnataka Home Minister V. S. Acharya and Sports Minister Gulihatti D. Shekar felicitate world billiards champion Pankaj Advani in Bangalore.-G. P. SAMPATH KUMAR

FELICITATED AT LAST

Pankaj Advani’s long wait for state recognition finally ended on November 10. After many false starts in the past, the Karnataka Government felicitated the world champion in cue sports and the state’s Home Minister, V. S. Acharya, on behalf of his government, presented Advani with a cheque for Rs.10 lakh.

The talk of a state honour for Advani started in 2003 when he won his first IBSF World billiards title. It gathered momentum as Advani began winning more titles, but for some inexplicable reason, the ‘felicitation’ couldn’t be held. Further, the tumultuous shifts in the state’s political scene only ensured that the issue remained in a limbo.

After receiving the Arjuna and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards from the Centre, Advani was given the Ekalavya Award by the state in 2007. This hurt Advani, who felt that the award was not only too late but also too little and therefore refused it.

However, all the bitterness was forgotten that balmy Monday afternoon as Advani stepped forward at ‘Krishna’, the official residence of Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa, to receive the cash award and also the Ekalavya Award.

Acharya, who deputed for the CM — who was unable to make it due to pressing official engagements — said: “I admit that we are honouring Advani a bit late. For reasons beyond our control, the function had been postponed several times in the past. But I am happy that we are able to do justice to him now and we have enhanced the quantum of the cash award to Rs. 10 lakh from Rs. 5 lakh that we had originally planned. We are proud of Advani’s achievements and wish him lot more success.”

Advani thanked the State Government for its gesture. “I am happy that my efforts have been recognised at last by the state. I thank them for increasing the cash award and I would like to forget the past and happily accept the Ekalavya Award as well. It only goes to show that hard work always pays and it is recognised. I hope we honour the achievements of all our state sportspersons in a befitting manner,” he said.

Present on the occasion were the Sports Minister, Gulihatti Shekar, and the veteran cueist and Advani’s mentor, Arvind Savur.

* * * HARYANA SUPREME

Haryana sat back after taking the lead and Karnataka, it seemed, was content to take the ball all the way to the opponent’s goal post only to hand it over, literally. Haryana took home the title after drubbing Karnataka 15-7.

Once the contest was over, the goal posts were pushed back and a few extra lights were somehow located and switched on. Even the electronic scoreboard seemed much brighter. The crowd, which consisted predominantly of participants from other states, was rather flat and the announcer tried her best to perk them up with renditions of Bharathiyar in chaste Tamil.

There was marked improvement in the tempo of play when the sub-junior boys final actually began.

The first half saw Delhi and Chattisgarh stay neck to neck for the most part until the latter pulled away.

In the second half, Chhattisgarh kept Delhi at bay and in somewhat desperate fashion clung on to its lead, after going a man down on several instances due to suspensions. The title went Chhattisgarh’s way with a 35-29 win.

By Nandakumar Marar, Kalyan Ashok & Raakesh Natraj