Outstanding sports persons have been appointed by the state government in different positions which is a step in the right direction as it allows these stars to mentor young sportspersons. Mary Kom and Sarita have their own boxing academies, which are providing training to budding boxers. Now Mirabai Chanu is also likely to start a weightlifting academy which will provide quality training to young weightlifters. These are examples of what such sportspersons do to the state when they are working within the state.
If they had worked outside the state, it would be next to impossible to start such academies to nurture young talents in the state. No doubt, there is SAI NERC which had groomed almost all outstanding sports persons but unfortunately its contribution had in the recent past seen deterioration, despite huge investment in infrastructure. The recent result of the All India Inter SAI karate tourney indicates that at least in this discipline it is Arunachal Pradesh which rules the roost as Manipur Centre could manage only the third position.
Besides SAI, the RCC of YAS Department is providing yeoman services in identifying talents and training at nominal cost to young sportspersons. Once talent is identified, they are groomed by either clubs or by SAI or academies. While on academies, there is a sprouting of academies for grooming young talents in various disciplines not only in Manipur but all across the country. The only problem is that many of these are just not competent to impart necessary skills to the young talents due to lack of proper infrastructure, coaches or intent and are there for money only.
Many youngsters from Manipur had to return after spending their parent’s hard earned money after realising that the so called academy just cannot provide the requisite training and what was provided in Manipur is far better. Yes there are some football academies which are quite well known. Manipur Classic Football Academy under Renedy is doing very well, clinching the AIFF U-17 club championship.
The state government seems not to have a proper and systematic way to provide support to outstanding sportspersons and even if there, is violated now and then leading to ad hocism ruling the roost. The grant of appointment or promotion is not based on the contribution made to the state or the country but rather on one’s proximity to the powers to be or personal achievement. For granting financial incentives, it is restricted to those who had achieved representing the state or the country. Individual participation or invitation competitions do not merit consideration.
The reason is that those who bring laurels to the state or the country deserve recognition and support. That is the reason why some competitors who are very popular in certain events are not given the due recognition as there is no system in the events they participate in and hardly follow sports code. This led to improper management of the competition with none of the competitors representing the state or the country and they participated on their own name and glory.
With professionalization of sports, many players engage agents to deal with the clubs and event managers, with the agents charging 5-20 per cent of the player’s fee. Unfortunately most of the so called agents are not per se clearly professional having cleared the test for agents conducted by the international federations. One question that comes is can a government employee have an agent whose interest may not always be in tandem with the government? In men’s football, the professional footballers who are playing especially in the ISL do not run after government jobs as they earn sufficient money to lead a comfortable life.
With say about 8-10 years of professional football, one can earn enough to lead a life of comfort, if one is not a spendthrift. Further, with them being out of reckoning from selection for the state team for Santosh trophy, they can never be the National Champion and eligible for government jobs. Further India to be the champion in football in an international competition like the World cup, Asian cup are almost nil; the maximum can be the SAF tournament. The situation in women’s football is different as there is a huge difference in the pay structure between the men and the women players. Further with little emphasis on the IWL, the women players will always want to settle for a government job rather than playing professionally. Playing professional football in India for the top women football players can bring to the most about 4-5 lakh maximum.
Then there are many disciplines where there is no money at all and people compete for the love of the game. Players of such disciplines will always prefer to land a government job for their sustenance to enable them to continue with the game. Various Central Government agencies recruit outstanding sportspersons and many Manipuri obtain their sustenance through this route.
The only disadvantage is that these players since they are away from the state just cannot act as the local role model and train their locality youngsters thereby cutting the umbilical cord for further development of the game in their areas. Appointment of outstanding sportspersons in government jobs have a dual purpose- providing sustenance to the players while also providing them support to continue playing and train younger players.
Government jobs are provided to those in the Olympic or Asian Games disciplines and those who are in those sports which are not included in these games are literally left high and dry. One major reason in most of these disciplines are the limited number of countries participating in these disciplines and lack of professionalism in running the international bodies leading to more than one federations operating.
In the recent past, a woman football player was given a promotion for playing in the UK as a professional. What benefit accrue to the state or the country by this foray, except that she becomes the first player from the state to play in a professional league in Europe. She is a government employee and drawing a salary and as per the rules she has to obtain permission to play outside which no doubt she must obtain.
But one cannot draw her salary here while also drawing her professional fee for playing in the European circuit. She technically has to obtain leave of absence without pay or extraordinary leave to play professionally. But these were overlooked and she was rewarded with a promotion and financial incentive! One does not envy the benefits she got but the question is whether it is legally or morally right?
However, the scenario is that quite a few players who are government employees have agents who deal with clubs charging a percentage and these agents will do whatever within their means to ensure that the players go to the club which offers them the maximum fee.
While playing professionally do these players obtain extraordinary leave or do they take French leave earning two incomes at the same time. It will be proper for the government to conduct a check on how many outstanding players who have been recruited in government positions has agents and due to the latter’s initiative play for clubs outside the state. Playing for clubs outside the state is okay provided they obtain extraordinary leave without pay from their state employer.
Special casual leave for donning the state or the national colours must be provided as they are not for their own benefit but for the name of the state and country. Coaches called up for state and national duty must also be provided with all facilities including leave with pay. But for coaching a professional club on payment of remuneration must only be on extraordinary leave without pay.
Even this is a relaxation of the service norms as working or playing at the professional level improves the skill and level of competition and can only help the person which can be passed on to the younger generation when one returns to the state. Further the agent and the state government may have different views and if the player sides with the agent; will the state take disciplinary action against the player?
An agent is like an employer bound by a contract and thus it is unethical for a government employee to have an agent which hunts job opportunity with the playing skill as the sole commodity and if this is permitted all employees can also demand additional employment outside the government while working for the government claiming they will work outside office hours.
Before the matter becomes acute and mushrooming, it would be proper to chalk out a proper policy or guideline so that all are governed by it rather than on ad hoc basis depending on one’s lobbying capacity. One cannot have the cake and eat too.
(The views expressed are personal)