How COVID-19 left sports academies in dire straits

Raj Hazarika, a national level tennis player from Assam, has taken up the pitiable plight of the sports academies with the Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju.

Raj Hazarika with tennis ace Leander Paes.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The athletes are trying to cope with the effects of lockdown in their individual capacity, with varying degrees of success. But the sports academies are choking without resources and players. The coaches and other personnel have been demoralised without any income for months.

"Right now most of them are struggling to make ends meet. That is the ground reality. Most of them have lost their livelihood for about four months, and have spent their savings. They are worried about clearing their credit with the grocery shops, pending school fees of their children, rent dues etc. They will need support for their personal lives first before they get back to sports," said Raj Hazarika, who runs seven sports academies in Delhi and Gurugram, catering to 12 sports activities.

On the positive side, Raj mentioned about the Union Minister Nitin Gadkari expressing confidence in a webinar about restarting the fitness industry with social distancing and strict hygiene norms.

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A national level tennis player from Assam, whose academies have been inaugurated by leading sports stars like Sania Mirza and Leander Paes, Raj has taken up the pitiable plight of the sports academies with the Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju through a public petition.

"These sports academies work at the grassroot level. They give easy access to the sports lovers to get into sports. They are also the platform where the sporting talent is identified and nurtured till they are taken by the state and national federations," said Raj, highlighting the significant role played by the academies.

"These small centres, with their limited infrastructure are working as the backbone for nurturing talent and providing the ecosystem for grooming future stars," he said.

Suggesting that a healthy society was not possible without sports academies in the Indian context, Raj pleads that "the government step in to support the organisations’’ and infuse life into them once again.

He warns that Indian sports could be "pushed back by ten years" if the sports academies were not revived quickly.

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