It is barely a month back that Chief Minister Pramod Sawant injected new confidence in sports persons across the State while speaking at a function felicitating sports achievers. One of the big promises that came that day was to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Sports Authority of India for its centre of excellence at Campal, catering to table tennis, badminton and swimming. He also unveiled plans to create a Sports City in Dhargal housing a sports academy over a vast expanse of land.
At a recent felicitation of Lenny da Gama, on his appointment as an evaluator at the Tokyo Olympics, Sports Minister Manohar Babu Ajgaonkar appealed to the sports association to work hard to ensure that Goa gets medals at events like National Games. He thundered that the government wants to take sports forward with stadiums of international standards.
Cut into Navelim, and a notice put up at the stadium exposes the lip service that the government is paying to sports. The notice reads: The Manohar Parrikar Indoor Stadium, Navelim will remain closed for members using the facilities from October 7 to 11 due to the exhibition of furniture and interiors. Members are advised that the facility at Fatorda could be used instead.
Ironically, the much-touted stadiums of international standards are being used to host furniture expos, that too on delicate wooden flooring meant for disciplines like badminton and table tennis. The Navelim stadium is not the only venue hosting expos, exhibitions and fairs. The iconic Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium in Taleigao has hosted more commercial and trade events, not to mention the opening and closing ceremonies of International Film Festivals. In October 2019, the stadium hosted a total of 255 exhibitor stalls as part of the 3-day Vibrant Goa-Global Expo and Summit.
We cannot fathom the idea of using world-class sports infrastructure for business and allied activity, especially when the focus is on competing at the national or international level. While Goa boasts of good infrastructure, priorities appear to be misplaced, and the authorities have exploited stadiums under the "multipurpose" label they carry. The story at Fatorda is no different where the sprawling wooden-flooring venue is being frequently used for non-sporting events, including government department felicitations and other functions, events that have whatsoever no connection to sports. Lest we forget, the reconstructed Indoor stadium at Campal costing Rs 15.7 crore, and the Indoor Stadium at Peddem sports complex were used as counting centres for Zilla Panchayat elections last year.
With sportspersons being given secondary treatment and facilities meant for them used randomly for non-sporting events, the government's seriousness in creating champions appears hollow. Screaming from rooftops over raising infrastructure and giving politically flavoured speeches on creating champions are irrelevant if sportspersons don't get the support they need. Telling players to vacate because of a furniture exhibition is against the spirit of sports and fair play.
In a highly competitive world, sports cannot get such step-motherly treatment, especially if our expectations are high. Nurturing talent and honing skills require years of dedication, discipline, perseverance and sacrifices. We cannot have such a casual approach towards those who are sweating it out and seeking to make a career in sports. What kind of a message is the government sending here?