COVID-19: Sports coaches resort to odd jobs for survival

Vikram Singh is driving Tuk Tuk in Rajasthan, K. Ramandeep is back to farming in Jalandhar, Aman Dev is working at a grocery shop in Kolkata.

K. Ramandeep, a full time coach working with FC Barcelona Football School in India, has gone back to farming in Jalandhar.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

With the coronavirus holding sway, the sports industry in the country is struggling to breathe.

Raj Hazarika, who runs many sports academies in the national capital region, and has made a petition to the Union Sports Minister to support sports academies in this moment of crisis, brings to the fore the plight of many sports professionals.

"The COVID-19 situation has broken our back. We have zero source of income and so many families depend on us. We have opened our centres following the government permission, and follow all the hygiene norms. Yet, there is no inflow. Due to the rising virus cases, people have become more sceptical to step out. Therefore, the income is almost nil," Raj said.

He is vehement that the sports professionals get the support at this stage, like collateral-free loan, so that they can see through the tough phase and stick to their chosen sports career.

"Some of the coaches who went back home have refused to come back to work, in the field of sports. E. Satyaraj, a reputed tennis coach from Chennai, is now running a South Indian food cart in Kanpur," said Raj.



Another tennis coach from Kolkata, Aman Dev, has started working in a grocery shop. Nazim Ul Islam has fallen back on his polytechnic qualification, and has become a refrigerator and air condition mechanic.



The example runs further, much to the dismay of the sports fraternity.

"K Ramandeep, a former India junior player, and a full time coach working with FC Barcelona Football School in India, has gone back to farming in Jalandhar. Siddharth Dalal, a renowned basketball coach who was head coach of the Jr NBA India team two years ago is supplying biscuits to various grocery shops’," said Raj, stressing the difficult times for sports professionals.

READ| How COVID-19 left sports academies in dire straits

"Another qualified basketball coach from Rajasthan, Vikram Singh, is driving ‘’Tuk Tuk’’ in his home town," revealed Raj.

In about 15 years, Raj has been able to offer sports facilities in badminton, football, cricket, basketball, tennis, skating, table tennis, taekwondo, horse riding, karate, swimming at many centres. He employs about 160 coaches, fitness trainers, physiotherapists, groundsmen, gardeners and other support staff at various centres.

"The staff is struggling, having run out of savings, and with mounting expenses. The worst is the uncertainty of the future. There is no sign of recovery," he said.

The government support will be the key for both survival and revival of the sports centres. "We have no option but to approach the government for financial support, so that we can sustain ourselves and our families for the next three to four months,", he said.

It is a gigantic task to reinstate the set up, pay salaries to the staff and get them back to work, help them pay their debt, rent, grocery bills and other needs.

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