Sportstar North-East Conclave: Finding ways to better the playing conditions

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It is time to invest in athletes and not just infrastructure: Bhaichung Bhutia 

HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Nov 28: Sportstar hosted the first-ever North-East Sports Conclave on Friday in Guwahati, where a host of speakers from different sports disciplines identified vexing issues in the region and ways to better the playing conditions.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, chief minister of Assam, shared his vision for sports development in the North- East while Anurag Thakur, Union minister of Information & Broadcasting and Youth Affairs & Sports, delivered the keynote address virtually.

Thakur said the government expected more medals from rifle shooting, wrestling and boxing at the Tokyo Games. He has lauded North East’s efforts to better the sports ecosystem in the region. “The fact that we have a sports conclave for the North-East speaks a lot about the progress of these states in sports. It is a testament to the emergence of sporting excellence in NE states,” Thakur said during his keynote address at Sportstar’s first-ever North-East Sports Conclave in Guwahati on Friday.

Mizoram Sports minister Robert Romawia Royte said better infrastructure is key to the success of all sports in the North-East. “Infrastructure-wise, the gap [compared to other states]is still very wide,” said Royte.

While football continues to be a popular sport for North-East, Meghalaya is also home to skilled archers. Asked what Meghalaya is doing to promote other sports, AIFF vice president Larsing Ming Sawyan said: “There is an integrated indoor stadium, which will have multiple sports. There is an input of Rs 300 crore towards sports infrastructure.”

Tokyo 2020 Olympic medal winners — weightlifter Mirabai Chanu (Silver medallist) and boxer Lovlina Borgohain (Bronze medallist) also shared their journeys. Lovlina said, “Even now, many parents don’t allow their daughters to play sports. I would tell them that sports have a big future and you can make a career out of it.” Mirabai spoke about the drug problem among today’s youth. “I request you all to think of your lives and families and turn over a new life. Please do not use drugs. Think of your state, your village and your family. If you try, you will succeed.”

Meanwhile, in a panel discussion on the North-East becoming the sports hub of India, former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia reiterated the need to invest in athletes. “It is time to invest in sportspersons, not just infrastructure. In North-East football, the efforts are from individual organisations or people, there’s no support from the states. Today, when you play I League and ISL, you get a good salary package. It’s unfortunate that other sports in India, besides cricket, don’t give such financial benefits.”

Manjusha, DGM Sports Indian Oil, concurred with Bhutia. “A lot needs to be done to get talent out of district and village level – that’s where the power of sport lies. Infrastructure alone can’t give champions; a structure can. Track talents from rural sides and bring them to the city.”

N Ibungo Choubi, executive member – Manipur Olympic Association, Bamang Tago, secretary – Arunachal Pradesh Badminton Association, Tete Hmar, secretary Mizoram Football and Sarita Devi, former World champion boxer, spoke on the traditional sports of North-East.

The Conclave was held in association with the Directorate of Information and Public Relations Assam, IOC, SBI and LIC India.

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