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''Time has come to bid adieu to honorary posts'
I can't change the direction of the wind but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination," American actor Jimmy Dean once famously declared.
One could well view Indian sports in the context of the above statement. The prevailing mess in our federations, particularly those dealing with Olympic sport, is so deeprooted that it's virtually impossible to weed it out.
So, what is the way out? Can we even come close to the likes of the Chinese, or the Europeans or the Americans? We could, maybe, follow Dean's vision. Instead of complaining about the wind and expecting it to change, we need to just adjust our sails - as Abhinav Bindra showed at the Beijing Games, or as Geet Sethi and Prakash Padukone have shown with their Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) programme.
Sethi, the green-baize legend who together with Padukone launched the OGQ after experiencing first-hand the plight of the Indian athletes at successive Asian Games, says: "Enough was enough. We decided we had to do something instead of just going on complaining. The sole aim behind OGQ is to unearth and support Olympic medal hopes in sports like boxing, badminton and shooting. The athletes need to have a comfort zone at the mental level where they do not need to worry about anything, but just their game."
Sethi says they have consciously decided not to intrude upon the role of the federations so that there are no ego clashes. "We don't want to compete with them (federations), but would like to move with them and add some value," he says.
While Sethi is not against politicians running sports federations, he feels an amalgamation would make it much more affective. "I don't think sports can be run only by sportspersons or by corporates. Sportspersons spend most of their active youth immersed in blinkered obsession of their respective disciplines. Their exposure in terms of administration, marketing and finance is limited. Corporate professionals have all the expertise in their respective functions - marketing, finance and governance - but don't have the core competency.
"Politicians have their own value. They can get sponsorship through the power they possess and wield. But efficient and transparent governance in any sport can only come with an amalgamation of all three - sportspersons, professionals and politicians. The latter could come in as patrons but should not be directly involved in the functioning of the sport," he says.
Former India hockey captain Viren Rasquinha, who's currently involved with OGQ as its chief operations officer, feels it is high time paid professionals were involved in the running of sports. "The biggest bane in Indian sports is its lack of professional management. Time has come to bid adieu to honorary posts. We have to move ahead," he says.
Rasquinha knows. For someone who could have become one of Indian hockey's finest captains, he was unceremoniously hounded out of the squad thanks to the strange ways of the then rulers of the game, Messrs KPS Gill & Co. But Rasquinha didn't brood over it for long. He joined the prestigious Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, completed his MBA and chose to serve OGQ, spurning several much more lucrative offers.
"I always wanted to do something for Indian sports and OGQ seems the best platform. But I could be an exception. I don't think you need to be a sportsperson to run the game. It could be anyone, from any field, even from politics. But he or she should have a good understanding of sports and should be able to devote full time to the job. That can't happen with honorary posts. Paid professionals are the need of the hour. They should be entrusted with a specific job, and there should be proper accountability. It's difficult to change the system, but we surely can effect some changes for the betterment of Indian sports," he says.
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