Sportstar National Conclave: Patience and passion for sport pre-requisites to lead NSFs ably, says Adille Sumariwalla

The Athletics Federation of India has created an ecosystem that is now bringing results for the country, says federation president Adille Sumariwalla. 

Published : Mar 27, 2023 14:28 IST - 4 MINS READ

Adille Sumariwalla (left), Rahul Bose, Kalyan Chaubey, and Deepak Malik at a panel discussion at the Sportstar National Sports Conclave on Monday.
Adille Sumariwalla (left), Rahul Bose, Kalyan Chaubey, and Deepak Malik at a panel discussion at the Sportstar National Sports Conclave on Monday. | Photo Credit: R. V. MOORTHY

Adille Sumariwalla (left), Rahul Bose, Kalyan Chaubey, and Deepak Malik at a panel discussion at the Sportstar National Sports Conclave on Monday. | Photo Credit: R. V. MOORTHY

Athletics Federation of India president Adille Sumariwalla on Monday pointed out how the change in approach in running athletics in India since his appointment as the head of the federation has brought dividends.

He said a lot of effort and time went into making a hero in athletics.

“Somebody running a federation should have passion for sport, should be able to give time and have patience. It took us 17 years for Neeraj [Chopra] to get a medal. He needs a vision and organisational skills. Anybody who fits into that can run a federation - it need not be a politician, a sportsperson or a bureaucrat,” Sumariwalla said during a discussion on sports federations at the Sportstar National Sports Conclave here.

Revealing how he changed the functioning of the athletics federation, he said, “I said I’m going to bring a corporate culture into running a federation professionally. We said we’re going to focus on two things: first create an ecosystem, and focus on grassroots on the one hand elite on the other. The reason being if you don’t have elite athletes, you don’t have somebody to look upto, you’re not going to get athletes at the grassroot level.

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“Athletics has 50 events. We can’t go after all of them. So we shortlisted events and then we brought in foreign coaches. The reason for bringing foreign coaches was that their knowledge of sports science, sports medicine, etc. is far better than a lot of our coaches because a lot of our coaches don’t have a science background.

“You need to create the ecosystem. That is what we have been doing very succinctly, very quietly. The amount of education we did during COVID – we didn’t lose that at all.”

‘Acceptance of leadership a challenge’

Paralympian Deepa Malik, now the president of the Paralympic Committee of India, said it took time for her to get acceptance from members of the sports ecosystem as the leader of the committee.

“When I took over the federation, unfortunately, I was the first Paralympian or athlete to do so, [and] a woman to lead the chair. It also happened during the pandemic. So no predecessor could tell me how a woman is going to face challenges in that seat. And at the same time, how to run a federation during the pandemic. But I think my focus was to keep it athlete-centric. As an athlete I knew where the shoe pinched, so I have been continuously working on that.

“Acceptance of my leadership was definitely a challenge. Because you have played under certain administrators for almost 15 years and then to assume a leadership position – it took a while to win the faith that ‘yes, I’m here to lead. Lead with passion, honesty, and with a purpose.’ Acceptance took a bit of time, but I’m sure the 19 medals we won at Tokyo is validation enough that we are moving in the right direction. We are very proud that from struggling with the right infrastructure, we’ll chair accessible accommodation, transportation. We have been able to win the faith internationally that today the governance stakeholders, corporates, CSRs, media – everybody is supporting us. We are making a mark internationally,” she said.

Rahul Bose, president of the Rugby Federation of India, said love for the players is a dimension of sports administration that is not often talked about.

“At every national championship you see a canopy or a shamiana, in a stadium where the president has to sit to watch the games. I never sit, because my heart is on the field. I walk around for eight-nine hours, watching the various games going on. Without saying anything. One team is disappointed, another team is charged up, one player is going away to the hospital. I just walk around. With the sky above and the ground below and a ball in your hand, that is how I still look upon my love for this game (sic). And that’s the most underestimated quality. If a player knows you love them, that you’ll do everything for them, that is a player who will have a lot more energy on the field.”

The Conclave is being held in association with Hero We Care, a Hero Motocorp CSR Initiative, ONGC, Jain University, Vajiram & Ravi, Institute for IAS Examination, Cric HQ, Shiv­Naresh and News X. The Conclave will be live on

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