Manipur's National Sports University set for first real test, but concerns remain among students
The National Sports University in Manipur will take its first step in making India a sports superpower as its first batch of students gets ready to pass out.
The National Sports University (NSU) in Imphal, the one-of-a-kind central government sports university, is going to have its first batch of students passing out this year. Professionals trained in sports science, nutrition, coaching, psychology and physical education will be going out into the world as the university seeks to fulfil its aim of helping to make India a sports superpower.
Four years after its establishment, the NSU is set to produce its first real results. And the stakes are pretty high - the government has released a total of Rs 87.65 crore for the development of the NSU, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur told the Lok Sabha earlier this year.
"Somebody asked me why are we opening National Sports University worth Rs 900 cr in Manipur. I'd like to say that not on basis of the population of the state... (but because) athletes from the northeast have made an immense contribution to the sports arena in India," Thakur said in the Rajya Sabha earlier this month.
The likes of Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, Sanjita Chanu, Mirabai Chanu, Suresh Wangjam, Udanta Singh, Ashalata Devi - all of whom hail from the state - often drop by for events at this university. But on a recent visit to the campus, The Bridge got a chance to explore the university and see what is brewing, finding that despite the excitement of the first batch being ready to graduate, there are still some concerns among students.
The central university, which operates from a makeshift campus at Khuman Lampak Sports Complex in Manipur, provides undergraduate courses in sports coaching and Physical education and postgraduate courses in sports coaching, psychology and physical education.
The university houses students from 26 different states and union territories. Talking to The Bridge, Siddhant Yadav, who is a master's student at NSU, said, "I came to the university in the same year it started functioning. I am one of the oldest students. I was a sportsperson myself, I saw an advertisement in my hometown about a National Sports University and decided to give it a shot".
"My experience has been good. The major purpose of the university is to bridge the gap between sports science, nutrition and other things which are mostly on the back end of a sportsperson. National Sports University is important as the other coaching institutes either do a one-year course or diploma, but we study for four years and more than 30 subjects, which create better professionals."
Most successful sporting nations are known to invest heavily in these sports areas. The whole system is driven by data and a scientific approach toward the athletes. This system identifies champions at an early age, and they are trained systematically.
Ajay Pal, who is studying Sports Coaching, explained the importance of sports science in modern-day sports: "Sports science is one of the most important things. Every athlete should know their anatomy and their physiology. A lot of work can be done at the grassroots level. For example, one test in the physiology lab can tell which kid will be a long-distance runner or sprinter or long jumper. After the identification, the skills can be developed with practice. This is the approach sporting superpowers take."
"Right now the university is at a developing stage and we have few facilities which are great but a lot of things are yet to be done. One of the biggest problems is the accessibility to this area. At times things like nutrition, and basic equipment don't reach us if something happens in Assam."
Violence around the NSU
The new campus promised to National Sports University is still under construction in the west district of Manipur in an area of 325 acres. A conflict between the authorities and the construction company has brought things to an impasse.
One of the students also said shortage of resources is an issue. Shatrughan Kushwaha, who is studying Physical Education, said, "Since we are on the temporary campus the resources are not enough for us and it deprives us of regular practice. For example, we have one badminton court and there are more than 25 players."
But while students can wait for their turn at the badminton court, there have been some other more concerning problems.
In June 2018, a local student union ransacked the administrative block of NSU in protest against reports of introduction of new courses in sports journalism, sports management and performance analysis at the proposed Lucknow campus instead of in Manipur.
In 2020, when the demarcation of the land for the new campus of NSU was proposed, land ownership and the process of allocation of the National Sports University site caused problems.
The construction site is 17 km from the state capital in Koutruk, Imphal West. However, the residents of Haraothel, Kangpokpi District, have been contesting the claim for a long by holding their ground firmly that the proposed site belongs to Haraothel village.
Violent clashes, multiple meetings and tension between several tribal groups occurred during the whole phase of demarcation and identifying of the land for NSU.
Despite all the issues and barriers, the students of National Sports University are hopeful for the growth of the sports ecosystem in India and the rise of India as a sports superpower.