Oped

Officials off the track

  • Sports secretaries need to follow up on their promises with concrete steps to develop a structured athlete development system.
- P Kharel

Apr 12, 2019-

Skill, stamina and discipline as showcased by the cream of Nepali sports is set to be the highlight of the 8th National Games formally commencing from April 18. Several competitions have already begun, ahead of the official inauguration. The jamboree, hosted mainly by five districts in Province 5, is set to attract a record 5,000 athletes, including 2,400 female athletes, from all over the country in 35 disciplines. The government-appointed National Sports Council (NSC) member-secretaries and their team members, since the latter half of the 1980s, seriously lacked on a sense of discipline in discharging their duties and showcasing managerial skills. Had things gone according to the plan, this would have probably been the 19th—and not 8th—edition of the sporting spectacle, which was originally envisaged as a biennial fare alternating between either of the two quadrennial events—the Asian Games or the Olympics.

One would like to forget the past and think ‘positively’ of the future. In terms of participants and expenses, the event merits attention. However, the meet also offers opportunities for various studies and discussions among sports admirers, coaches, retired officials and former athletes who can offer their valued opinions from their experience. In principle, the National Games would be an ideal occasion for parallel discussion sessions in the district, provincial and national levels, covering the sporting sectors’ perspective on its problems, as well as on it future prospects.

Inspiring initiative

The late Sharad Chandra Shah, a man not without swagger and boast, proved to be by far the most visionary and dynamic NSC member-secretary in terms of initiatives and innovative measures. His idea envisaged the National Games to host all national sport and athletic tournaments concurrently at a single city or a cluster of venues lined up back-to-back. Other members, such as Dwarika Ram Bhagat Mathema, the late Anup Shumsher Rana, Bishnu Gopal Shrestha and Subarna Bahadur Chhetri completed the Shah-led team with drive and energy. Inter-city Games, also slated for alternate years, soon followed the National Games with similar spirit.

In fact, the South Asian Games, formerly known as the South Asian Federation Games, was basically Nepal’s idea, formally floated after the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was launched in Dhaka in December 1985. Once the regional sports meet was agreed upon in principle, the rest of the member nations jointly asked Nepal to play host to the inaugural edition. After this, the member countries decided on taking turns hosting the event according the alphabetical order of their names. As long as Shah held office, the tryst with the National Games and Inter-city Games was maintained. After two terms at the helm of the NSC, Shah was succeeded by many people in the subsequent years but organising the two sets of Games on time was found to be too heavy for their minds and make. What was originally designed as a two-yearly fare has, in practice, been overstretched to a quadrennial feature.

Sports enthusiasts were left high and dry when the Inter-city Games were abandoned for all practical purposes—even as the National Games were barely retained. This is what happens when rank inefficiency marks officials with power and patronage but without the required vision and mission to carry on a task to its expected cycle.

Road ahead

Whoever sits in the NSC member-secretary’s chair usually is seen hogging the center-spot at photo sessions when sending off athletes for competitions abroad or receiving the occasional medal-fetching teams on their return. Rarely is he seen when teams faring poorly face a sullen, almost deserted, airport reception by lesser deities amongst sports officials.

Merely organising an event is not enough. For an event to be considered successful, the outcomes have to be consistently satisfactory. However, the fluctuating fortunes of our athletes’ performances indicate inconsistencies owing to the lack of quality coaching, proper training and regular contests. The anomaly in some competitive discipline is seen at the national level, but rarely a feature at local levels, should be addressed. A persistently steady expansion of the related events is essential.

Any nation striving to achieve a consistent level of quality in international competitions can only hope to do so if it has invested in a grassroots base train a regular incoming pool of potential talents. Schools are fertile grounds for talent hunts, what with 7.4 million students from Classes 1-12, spread over 28,000 community and 6,600 private schools. Regular competitions and due incentives accorded to the talented enable officials with a nose for the potential and eyes for detail to identify the early potential for due encouragement to draw their best.

Local units of various sports associations should draw up tournament schedules in close coordination with their national bodies, which would ensure regular channels of communication with NSC. Campus chiefs and university vice-chancellors, among others, should be held responsible for any commission or omission.

Consistency is key

It seems that the timely release of an annual sports calendar by the NSC is a far more herculean task than winning gold medals in major international competitions. Failing to release, and consequently stick to, a sports schedule should result in the firing of related officials. If poor-performing athletes are dropped from a match or team, why should officials with a lackluster record get away with anything?

Most of the 35 disciplines included for the National Games are rarely organised in yearly competitions. Those that are fairly regular follow lax regulations. The ideal option would be to hold district level and provincial level contests in a predetermined order, finally culminating in national championships.

Cricketing talent Sandeep Lamichhane might be making waves in other countries as a stunning leg-spinner taking wickets with remarkable economy. NSC officials can take a leaf from his book: Exercise economy in public promises and deliver results at a fast rate.

Another major call of the hour is for the NSC, National Olympic Committee and various associations, including the All Nepal Football Association and the national cricket association to end their perennial squabbles. They should take the lead in displaying exemplary discipline in both public posture and performance in order to inspire and motivate athletes and coaches. Business houses could be persuaded to sponsor awards, scholarships and events.

Kharel is the former editor of The Rising Nepal. 

Published: 12-04-2019 08:19

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