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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Career in Sports

A League of Their Own



   Cricket is on a winning streak as the Indian Premier League (IPL) has taken the game to new heights. It is raining money, glamour and fame and young cricketers like Ishant Sharma and Mahendra Singh Dhoni have turned into demi-gods. Sharma is valued at $9,50,000 and Dhoni a staggering $1.5 million. Will all this hype encourage the youth to opt for sports as a career rather than a hobby? 
   The verdict is divided; some feel that other sports are not as lucrative as cricket, while others say that IPL will help boost the profile of all games in general. Cricket has led to a wave of interest among the youth towards sports. An industry survey,government officials and institute heads, indicate that there will be an increase in the number of people opting to pursue cricket as a career and other sports will be neglected.While on the other hand, coaches, sportsmen and sports authorities feel that sports as a whole have come a long way and if a person has the passion and discipline to pursue any sport, there are ample opportunities. 


A recent survey by Assocham mentions that over 68% of the sports sponsorship is given to cricket boards, IPL and Indian Cricket League (ICL), and the remaining is divided among other sports. So can a sportsperson sustain a livelihood? "If you go back 10-odd years in time, sports in general never attracted that much attention. However, one can certainly make a good career in any sport now," says Baichung Bhutia, football player. 

   Bhutia admits that it is difficult to invite corporate sponsorships for most sports. "Sports is a big business now. Corporates will pool in money only if they see returns. And in sports, returns are led by wins. If we win, we will get sponsorship," he says. 

   Manavjit Singh Sandhu, shooter, holds a similar view that cricket is in a league of its own and that it is ‘difficult’ for other sports to invite similar sponsorships. However, he hastens to add that tennis and shooting have now started attracting youngsters who are pursuing the sport as a career. On the positive side, Sandhu also says that the government is taking more interest in sports and has introduced many schemes for youngsters if they wish to pursue a career in sports. 

   "Tennis has a lot of money and can sustain itself. Moreover, people get attracted towards sports if they have icons. With Sania Mirza emerging as a youth icon for many, tennis has acquired attention from many youngsters," says Joe Sebastian, director - sports, ministry of youth affairs and sports. 

   However, Sebastian differentiates between cricket and other sports. "Cricket and Bollywood are two religions in Indian, so imagine the kind of money and glamour generated if they combine as they have in IPL. Even Australian players are looking forward to play in India. We have allocated a Rs 667 crore budget for covering the entire gamut of sports in our country. It is just 0.083% of the entire budget. A small country like Cuba spends over 13% of its budget for sports. And when it comes to IPL revenue, there are projections that suggest it would generate Rs 5,000 crore in the next five years. Now compare this to a meagre Rs 667 crore budget. If we estimate the deal fetched by Ishant Sharma, he will be earning Rs 1.75 lakh per ball during the tournament. Not only money, cricketers are also going to earn fame like British footballer David Beckham," adds Sebastian. 


There are others who feel that if you have an interest and talent for a particular sport, you would follow your passion. "It is all about sportsmanship. If a person has a passion for a particular sport, no matter how much fame and money is involved in other games, the person will follow his/her passion.In our institute we encourage people to get an education even in a game like kho-kho,'' opines S N Mukherjee, vice-chancellor, Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education, Gwalior, a deemed university providing a formal education in sports. 

   According to Mukherjee, opportunities in other sports go unnoticed. "There is a lack of awareness among people about the schemes and funds available for pursuing a sport. The government is running 30 SAI (Sports Authority of India) training centres across the country. All facilities including food, lodging, infrastructure, equipment are fully-funded by the government and sportspersons get training free of cost, informs Mukherjee . 

   "It is a myth that careers other than sports can provide better job security.You will be surprised to know that the unemployment rate in sports is only 10% as compared to other careers," informs Prem Kashyap, executive director, SAI. 

   Kashyap even says that job security in pursuing sports other than cricket is much higher. "Many PSUs and private companies have their teams and employ people from different sports to represent their teams.You can join them or sports clubs, schools, coaching if you want to explore other career opportunities," he adds. 

   "It is not about job opportunities alone, I think this is the best time to be born in India as a sportsperson," claims Tania Sachdev, a young chess player who was recently titled the Asian Woman Champion for 2008. "Sports is a different kind of education and it changes the entire personality. I play both at the national and international level. Things are changing for the better in the overall sports scenario." 

  Tania, Sania and many other women want to participate in a sport other than cricket. "Although we lost in the Olympic qualifiers in hockey, the game has witnessed a revival in our country courtesy the film Chak de India. There is a phenomenal increase in the number of people wanting to learn hockey especially women. If I teach hockey to 40 students, 30 among them are girls," says Umesh Gautam, hockey and swimming coach Father Agnel School, Noida. Gautam is among those who are optimistic about other sports also getting attention, due to the success of IPL. 

  While Gautam expresses in words that IPL will be beneficial for other sports, Sebastian corroborates with a fact. Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) plans to divert its resources to other sports. BCCI is going to contribute 25 crores for the National Sports Development Fund to help develop other sports in India.



Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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