By Kiran George:
That big Indian guy who made it to the NBA Drafts –you’ve seen news articles about him splattered all across the web, haven’t you? Your chest swollen with pride, you probably thought, “Wow, boy from India goes to the NBA! Perhaps I should pursue my basketball dreams here as well”.
Now, now. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Satnam Singh’s journey to the NBA Drafts was a very very tough one, so unless you’ve decided to train abroad take a long, hard look at your dream again and consider whether it’s worth the sub-standard seating for more than half the ride to the top.
Satnam Singh came from a small little village in Punjab. Had his father not decided to let Satnam pursue his Big Basketball Dream and thereafter sent him to train at the Ludhiana Basketball Academy(LBA), he’d have perhaps been doing just what his destiny seemed like – working in his father’s wheat farm. However, now that his fortune has turned for the better, considering the awful conditions players like him were made to live and train in, does India really have absolutely anything to do with his NBA Draft achievement?
Read an excerpt from this HT report on the Academy’s living conditions:
The mess is in a bad shape, and most of the times the water cooler is dysfunctional, which means the trainees have to walk a distance to fetch drinking water. Most of the toilets are sans doors, and the pupils are dependent on one partly-functional toilet. Since there are no taps for bathing, arrangements have to be made to fill the tub from the water supplied to urinals.
Given the state, it is not surprising that the Punjab sports department has not deputed a single cleaning staff to the residential wing.
The rooms are in a similar state with non-functional air coolers a regular sight. Some private contributions led the Punjab Basketball Association to install six air-conditioners but steep electricity bills led to their disconnection. Non-operational for a few years now, all of them need major repairs.
Two dilapidated stations and some weights are all the trainees have for a gym.
Do these words sound familiar? Of course they do. Multiple articles on the apathy of the living conditions offered to national hockey players have made front page news in the TOI and The Hindu in the past, with little being done consequently to fix the miserable state of affairs that plague most non-cricket sports in India. For the uninitiated, read this to know just what I’m talking about.
Now I’m in no way trying to suggest that all of us don’t have reason to be proud of Satnam, but India’s sports authorities probably ought to understand, loud and clear, they have little credit to take so far as Satnam’s current and future accomplishments are concerned. While in the end, Satnam’s basketball skills and gigantic frame ensured that it all worked out rather well for him, the whole article puts forth a disturbing image of the facilities India provides to its sportsmen especially for those who aren’t looking to make their name in cricket world.
If India really is keen on producing top level players in basketball, hockey and other sports then it better up its game and start treating its players right. It’s about time that state-of-the-art facilities are built for the promotion of sports like hockey, basketball and football. Else it simply must issue a public declaration so that its clear disinterest in promoting sports besides cricket is known. That should dissuade boys and girls like Singh himself, belonging to poverty-stricken families, from leaving behind their menial jobs and education to try their luck at making it big in their favourite sport, only to find themselves stuck in a dilapidated old residential building, with unhygienic bathrooms, a rusty ill-equipped gym and if you’re at the LBA, daily food worth Rs. 200 only from July to March. For the rest of the months, food will of course be made available, but subject to funding from kind sponsors – courtesy, the Ludhiana Basketball Academy.
And in the event that Indian authorities don’t care enough to bother themselves with taking care of this situation, may the players and athletes remain blessed with good wishes until the very end of time – they’re going to need a lot of that if they have to keep fighting and surviving what is nothing short of a national embarrassment.