Former India tennis player Jaidip Mukerjea, CC&FC president Deepankar Nandi, former national golf champion Indrajit Bhalotia and Calcutta Rowing Club secretary Chandan Roy Chowdhury spoke on the role of traditional clubs in sports promotion during the Sportstar East Sports Conclave in Kolkata. Correspondent Y. B. Sarangi moderated the session.
Mukerjea got the session rolling with a brief history of the Calcutta South Club, “The South Club was synonymous with all tennis players. I get asked why we don’t have Davis Cup matches anymore. Things are in a bit of a mess right now. We have produced 15 David Cup players from our coaching system earlier. Naresh Kumar, Dilip Bose, Akhtar Ali, myself, my brother Chiradip and then finally Leander Paes,” he said.
Deepankar Nandi, president of CC&FC, one of the oldest clubs in the world founded in 1792, was in attendance as well. He said, “CC&FC were the founding members of the CAB (Cricket Association of Bengal), IFA (Indian Football Association) and BHA (Hockey Bengal formerly known as Bengal Hockey Association). I am proud we could establish, after all these years, ladies’ teams of rugby and football.
“CC&FC has many tournaments where outsiders also take part. We have coaching schemes for youngsters in cricket, football, swimming and rugby. I feel most kids attending these coaching camps are from privileged backgrounds and most don’t see sports as a career option.
“CC&FC still plays the IFA and CAB leagues. In the IFA competition we got promoted to the Premier division from the first division, We look for sponsors now. In cricket, we are a second-division side.”
Indrajit Bhalotia of the Tollygunge Club said, “When we grew up, both Tolly and RCGC (Royal Calcutta Golf Club) were the cradles of golf. Outside Scotland, RCGC has the oldest golf course in the world.”
‘Running out of space’
“You need 100-odd acres of land to have a championship-level golf course. So it is not possible to have 10-15 golf academies in a city like Kolkata. This is where cities like Bangalore and the NCR have gone ahead of us. It will be an uphill climb for Kolkata in terms of golf. There are little pockets of space for improvement. In Kolkata, the concept of driving 40 kilometres to play a sport is not there. The Vedic Village is planning to build a golf course, Eco Park has a mini golf course but it comes nowhere close to global standards.
“Definitely the government has to get involved because it involves so much land,” Bhalotia added.
Secretary of the Calcutta Rowing Club - the oldest of its kind in Asia - Chandan Roy Chowdhury spoke on similar lines: “Like golf, rowing needs a lot of area. There has been no new water body in Bengal since the last 100 years. So, it has become increasingly difficult.
‘Need support and publicity’
“Except for Dhakuria Lake, we don’t have much infrastructure. Other water bodies are only 200m. Calcutta has a 1000m body (sic). As far as rowing is concerned, we need support and publicity from other sectors. Last year, we imported a boat from China worth 2 crore rupees. And all of that was our own money.
“Unlike cricket and football, hardly any young people come for a sport like rowing despite it being an Olympic sport. As far as rowing is concerned in this city, we are doing everything we can. Sports is not child’s play. We need to make parents understand that sport is a career option. This is not only for rowing but also for all sports.“
The Sportstar East Sports Conclave was held in association with Hero We Care - a Hero Motocorp CSR Initiative, Indian Oil, Shiv-Naresh, Rau’s IAS Study Circle, Pinnacle Infotech, Maithan Alloys Ltd, Merlin Group, SRMB, Techno India Group’s Sister Nivedita University, Meghbela Broadband and Indian Bank.