Stakeholders unite to take Kerala sports to greater heights

The speakers at the Sportstar Kerala Sports Conclave stressed on the way forward for sports in the state.

Kerala Sports Minister V. Abdurahiman said the practice of renting out the stadia, built for sports, for other events should be stopped. He was present till the end of the programme, listening eagerly to the issues raised by athletes.   -  S. MAHINSHA

P. T. Usha was there, online from Payyoli, the small town in North Kerala that she made known internationally through her exploits on the track. There was I. M. Vijayan too, in person, his hair now largely grey, but the swagger of India’s once deadliest striker intact still. Seated near him were his former teammate in India’s national team, Jo Paul Ancheri, and C. K. Vineeth, one of the more popular faces of the ISL.

There were many more big names from Indian sport, as well as a Sports Minister who proved a patient listener, at Hotel SP Grand Days on a pleasant Wednesday morning when the monsoon rain stayed away from Thiruvananthapuram. And they all spoke well, about the way forward for the sport in Kerala. The Sportstar Kerala Sports Conclave indeed served its purpose.

Surprisingly, one of the best speeches at the conclave came not from an athlete, but a popular Malayalam film star, Mukesh. For those who have listened to him before or read his funny book Mukesh Kathakal, maybe it wasn’t a surprise at all.

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Mukesh, who is also an MLA at the Kerala Assembly, told an inspiring story about the late Olympian Suresh Babu. The long-jumper was Mukesh’s relative.

He had seen the first ever jump of Suresh. And it was Mukesh who asked Suresh to try long jump — because he was very tall — at a programme organised by a local sports club of Kollam.

A little later, Mayookha Johny, who still holds the National record in women’s triple jump, said steps should be taken to ensure that potential Olympians, like Suresh Babu, should not be lost. She also talked about the need for proper sports medical care, the lack of which had cost her dearly.

Former athletes Mayookha Johny (left), Jincy Philip and former World boxing champion K. C. Lekha at the Sports conclave. Mayookha, who still holds the National record in women’s triple jump, stressed the need for proper sports medical care.   -  S. MAHINSHA

 

Usha said children should be taught the right sporting skills from a young age. “Our school meets should not be just about manufacturing champions,” she said.

Vijayan and Ancheri lamented the lack of football tournaments, which had played a key role in making Kerala the powerhouse it was in the sport. Vineeth pointed out how important it was to educate parents about the possibilities of a career in sport for their children.

Shooter Elizabeth Susan Koshy, who was online from her home in Kochi, spoke eloquently about how the world-class shooting range in Thiruvananthapuram was being under-utilised.

The Kerala Sports Minister V. Abdurahiman, who assumed office a couple of months ago, ensured the issue raised by Elizabeth would be looked into. He said the practice of renting out the stadia, built for sports, for other events should be stopped. And he was there till the end of the programme, listening eagerly to the issues raised by athletes.

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in his message, said that the State could be proud about the fact there were nine Malayalis at the Tokyo Olympics. But the absence of a female Malayali athlete was a shortcoming that needed to be addressed, he said.

Sportstar Editor Ayon Sengupta spoke about the rich legacy of Kerala in multiple sports, while The Hindu’s Sports Editor K. C. Vijaya Kumar commended the athletes for expressing their views candidly.

Former track-and-field athletes P. Ramachandran, Jincy Philip and Mercy Kuttan, who is also the president of the Kerala Sports Council, former World boxing champion K. C. Lekha, former National table tennis champion Ambika Radhika, Geromic George (Director-Sports, Kerala), Jayesh George (BCCI joint secretary), Sreejith Nair (Kerala Cricket Association secretary), G. Kishore (Director, SAI-Kerala), Tom Joseph (Director, New Initiatives, Jain Deemed-to-be-University) and Rajeev Mannali (CAO, SUT Hospitals, Thiruvananthapuram) were the other speakers. The debate was moderated by A. Vinod, Deputy Editor, The Hindu (Sports).