The abrupt timing of this article is due to the fact that another such unfortunate incident recently came to the fore. This one involved India’s most prominent female squash player – Dipika Pallikal. But before that, it is important to note how fundamentally broken India’s sports system actually is.
It is only fair to say that the sporting structure in India is flawed.
Barring some of the country’s premier sports, such as Cricket and Badminton, pretty much every sport has suffered in one way or another.
Some disciplines have suffered from a lack of funding, while others have suffered from blatant corruption. The situation has escalated to an extent where it is no longer a surprise to see this kind of news.
The athletes suffer too, as a direct consequence of their disciplines suffering.
India has, for long mistreated those who represent us on the tracks and in the field; not giving them the recognition they deserve or providing them with a moment’s acknowledgement.
The ruling bodies and the fans are equally complicit in this situation, with both the parties failing to provide support to the country’s athletes. Take the example of the Indian Women’s cricket team. The team garnered huge support after their Final run in the last Women’s World Cup. And although the team stumbled at the final barrier, the support they received during the tournament felt as if Women’s cricket has finally turned on a new leaf in India.
However, a few months later, the situation is still the same. Fans have forgotten about the existence of the team whilst the authorities have half-heartedly tried to make the sport more popular.
The sad state of Women’s cricket was just an example. This kind of ignorance is not just limited to this particular sport but has affected many over the years.
Nevertheless, ever so often, the tables turn and the athletes who have for so long suffered, become the antagonists. It is then, they, who exploit the system to gain an advantage over the ‘helpless’ system and the ‘innocent’ fans.
However, this sudden change of character by those who we look up to is not heroic in nature. It is rather distasteful and unethical.
The Case of Dipika Pallikal
News surfaced yesterday, August 15, that Pallikal had spoken about how the lack of a foreign coach will hurt India dearly. This story came at an especially bad timing, with the Asian Games due to start this Saturday. However, the Squash Racket Federation of India got back at Palikal’s claims of incompetence, by stating that the Squash star was using this opportunity to further her case against the federation.
Pallikal and the federation had locked horns previously after the Squash superstar was denied to bring her own coach on-board. SRFI believed that Pallikal’s anger was directed towards them “for not accepting her request to attest/ratify A. Parthiban as her coach to enable the latter to draw the financial benefits which come under the awards scheme.”
It was also revealed that Pallikal had tried to uplift her coach on prior occasions as well. “..she(Dipika) had nominated A. Parthiban as her coach in approaching the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (That did not require attestation of the Federation) and this helped A. Parthiban to receive the Rs 9 lakh benefit, thanks to the two silver medals that Dipika had won in the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia early this year.”
Furthermore, it was revealed by a source that 8.5 Lakh out of the 9 Lakh received by Pallikal’s coach, had been transferred immediately to her. Dipika’s mother refuted the claims of a scam, however, claiming that the money was split amongst all of Pallikal’s coaches.
Whether or not the whole situation reeks of a scandal, it is fair to say that there was a percentage of unethicality and exploitation of system involved.
Other Such Cases
The Case of Kanchanmala Pande
Dipika Pallikal’s case was that of financial exploitation. However, there was on, in which it was people whose emotions were exploited.
Pande garnered widespread sympathy after a video showed the Para-swimmer and her sister were begging for money on a German tram. The Para-athlete had gone to Germany to represent India in a tournament and was seen asking for ticket money on a tram.
Needless to say, the Indian audience was furious. They blamed the federation and the respective authorities for not providing Pande and other athletes with enough funds. However, a Firstpost report later debunked the theory, providing details of how the athlete was well-funded by the authorities.
The outrage regarding this issue was due to the face that the Para-swimmer and her husband had used the media as a tool to convey a false message and when it all came crashing down, blamed the media for miscommunication.
Both hers and Pallikal’s case reek of exploitation, although of a very different kind.
The unethicalities do not resort to these two women, however. Over the years, there have been many such cases which involved a degree of exploitation by the athlete.
OP Jaisha and Dutee Chand had both exploited people’s emotions before and during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games by claiming that they are not being provided with ample support by the federation. Dutee Chand had claimed that she couldn’t afford a pair of running shoes while OP Jaisha accused the federation of mistreating her during her run. Both the claims were later refuted as the media was accused, once again, of miscommunicating things.
Premier sports such as Cricket are not prone to such situations, as well, with the scandals of match-fixing quite frequent in nature. Perhaps the most famous within the subcontinent was that of Sreesanth and two others, who were accused and punished for match-fixing in the IPL.
Moreover, athletes also take advantage of the funding structure of the government. Many such athletes take up the positions of government employees, never to report for their duties.
It is clear that exploitation is a word not just used by federations. Sometimes, the athletes are equally fraudulent.
Ethicality of Things
This puts us in a difficult position- right in the middle of the spectrum of unethicality, where one side is occupied by the federations, while the other by the athletes. There are people on both sides who are always looking for loopholes and shortcuts. And even though us fans are not purely corrupt, we are always equally complicit.
We are complicit when we stand and watch on as the federations mistreat the athletes. We are equally complicit when we sympathize with an athlete and turn against the federation, without actually questioning their motive.
Indian sports is a highly exploitative and unethical field. One can only hope, that in time, it ceases to remain the same.