The Northeast of India may have provided numerous stars to the country from various sporting disciplines but the region needs investment in sporting infrastructure to harness the abundant talent on offer there, Abu Metha, advisor to the Nagaland Chief Minister, said at the Sportstar National Sports Conclave here on Monday.
He said the government of India and corporate entities needed to invest heavily in sports in the region.
“Northeast is unique. It has so many challenges. And every day, the situation there is very different from that of the mainland. The youth, the people there, have so many other challenges than playing sport. Everyday challenges. Insurgency has kept the youth away from mainland and from normal life for decades,” he said during a panel discussion on sport in the Northeast.
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“Today, if you go to the interior parts of Nagaland, to the Indo-Myanmar border, the children there don’t know that you’re supposed to stand up when ‘Jana Gana Mana’ is played. But you know what? When Dhoni helicopters a six or when Neeraj hurls the javelin towards gold, every kid jumps from their seat. They support India. They support the tricolour. So my point is sport is where you can bring youth of the Northeast towards the mainstream, give them platform and avenue to contribute towards the process of nation building (sic) and also participate in India’s rise and growth.
“Having said that, the problem starts from infrastructure. The biggest challenge is infrastructure – physical infrastructure, infrastructure of human resources, and the lack of ecosystem, especially from smaller states. Apart from Assam, the other States are really challenged for infrastructure and ecosystem, human resource capacity. So we need the government of India to make more investment. I think it’s a foregone conclusion that the talent bank of the Northeast as far as sports is concerned needs no elaboration. And predominantly a population that is Mongoloid. Mongoloid people have great hand-eye coordination that they can apply to sports,” Metha said.
Mizoram Sports Minister Robert Romawia Royte underlined technical support as key to talent identification.
“We’ve enough talent in the North East but we ought to have a system in place for talent hunting. You must’ve noticed that athletes from the North East, who do well at the national and international level, are from the rural areas. So tapping into these talents is very much a challenge... in view of the social infrastructure and man power in the North East, we need technical support for identification of talent,” Royte said.
Devajit Saikia, joint secretary, BCCI, said the terrain and weather posed a big challenge in forming a cricketing ecosystem in the region. He said it was difficult to find suitable land to build cricket stadia. But he specified that the board was building indoor stadia in all the seven States.
Weightlifter Mirabai Chanu and boxer Sarita Devi shared their experiences of making a career in sport in Manipur. Mirabai said infrastructure in her State was still not up to standard, and that success of athletes there was more due to their own fire in the belly.
Sarita shared with the audience the role that sport played in helping her move away from the influence of insurgency.
“I had to struggle. We faced a lot of insurgency. We used to be really influenced by these insurgents. I am alive today because of sport, otherwise I may have been killed in fake encounters. My life changed through sport. Earlier, we would be wanting to separate from the country, but after coming into sport, I felt the love for my country. We got so much respect and love,” she said.
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 sportstar.thehindu.com.