When you set out to do something constructive for Indian sports, attempt to break the many myths apart from the overwhelming negativity surrounding it, you invariably find some good people jumping in for support and joining the cause.
That has been the story of GoSports Foundation, that was started in 2008 to support the players from less known sports and convert them into achievers.
It is fitting to peep into the past decade when GoSports gained so much momentum that it ended up being bestowed the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar by President Ram Nath Kovind, at the Arjuna awards function in the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
It was a struggle for the first few years to raise funds, as much as to break the beliefs, that “we do not have sports talent, sports culture; we are good with skill but not strength and endurance, etc.’’
The approach was to stay clear of cricket, with the understanding of the limitations of working with team sports. It was decided to identify players who deserved support and then look for money to fund them, around 2012.
“Something magical happened,’’ recalled Nandan Kamath, the Managing Trustee of GoSports , who received the award from the President.
The magic happened through a sports memorabilia auction. The former India captain Rahul Dravid gave an autographed bat and his Test jersey. Rohan Bopanna met Roger Federer on the tour and took a signed racquet from him.
“The auction was a success beyond our dreams. We sold many different pieces of memorabilia that had all been donated to us. Still, the proceeds from the auction of Dravid and Federer memorabilia alone funded our scholarship programme for the next year or two’’, recalled Nandan.
Badminton ace Kidambi Srikanth, who went on to become world No.1, was one of the early athletes to be supported, when he was ranked 381. His first international tournament was funded by GoSports.
Rahul Dravid joined the fold, and so did the former World and Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra, apart from the former All England Champion and the badminton guru, Pullela Gopi Chand, as advisors, which took the movement to a different level.
Gymnast Dipa Karmakar, who won the imagination of the entire nation with her fourth place performance in the Rio Olympics, was one of the athletes supported by the organisation, which also took special interest in supporting para athletes including Deepa Malik.
The organisation started focusing on athlete education and coaches development. In due course of time, John Gloster joined as head of sports science, and set up a team of experts to back the athletes whenever required. As a lawyer, Nandan strengthened Sports Law and Policy Centre.
While celebrating its tenth year, the organisation put together a book, documenting the progress of sports in the country, ‘Go! India’s Sporting Transformation’ with many articles on specific subjects, including those from Dravid, Bindra and Gopi Chand.
If anything, the Presidential honour and award has kindled the hunger of the team to continue working hard, aspiring to make meaningful contribution to Indian sports.
“We have the tools and the values to keep us focused and grounded. Hope we can continue to be catalysts who bring professionalism and positivity into the Indian sporting environment,’’ Nandan said.