Millennium Post

Lost in commerce

When Sport and India come together, in spite of a series of options available, the direction has been extremely unidimensional. The country’s love for cricket, followed by the Indian Premier League has ensured the right pumping of sponsors leading to the high-profile sport that it is today. As for other sports, football too has been quite popular within the country. However, the popularity has been limited to the diversity in the acceptance of the sport only within a few states in India. Football though did see the light of the day after there were funds pumped into creating the Indian soccer league popularising the sport all over again. Just like Cricket and football, there are a number of other disciplines the country participates in. However, recognition is what most of them lack. It is unfortunate that Mary Kom was more popular as a film than the sports person that she is. Sushil Kumar as a wrestler had to make his way to a popular reality show on television to gain popularity. 

The thirst for glory sadly lies in the hands of a capitalist regime which if they chose, may push a number of art forms from stranded to surrounded. The day a sports concept graduated from the world of competition amongst individuals and countries to a show of glitz, glamour and big money, it automatically entered its darkest phase. Amid all the hard work, sportsmen and teams found themselves mired in gambling, betting, fixing and more. Cricket has been the one sport where the dark world of fixing has shown its ugly face time and again. However, other sports haven’t lagged far behind either. Tennis too being the recent exception.

Advertisers form a major market as far as sporting in the country is concerned. The revenue generated by these advertisers not only serves as the marketing for the sport but also happen to fund the sport in totality. Kabaddi as a sport was considered a village time pass just a decade ago. Many Indian villagers and small folks from the small town practiced the sport for fun knowing that it may never go beyond that. However, things took a dramatic turn when Star Sports decided to initiate the pro-Kabaddi league. It is now a career choice that one can make. Over a couple of seasons down, many pundits even predicted that Kabaddi might just be the next big thing in India. 

As unfortunate as it sounds, sport today needs the push both in terms of endorsements by celebrities and revenue by advertisers.  If the ESP properties Sports power report released on the 6th of April was to be considered, the sports sponsorship nationwide has increased by a whopping 12% in comparison to last year. This accounts for an increase from  Rs 4616.5 crore in 2014 to Rs 5185.4 crore sanctioned in 2015 for the sports budget for 2016. 

However, if the total ad spending all over the country was to be brought to the table, sports only accounted towards 10% of the total revenue spent on advertising otherwise, excluding cricket as a sport. The total revenue raised in 2015 from ads was Rs 49,758 crore.  Sports pundits also state that with Football doubling the allotted expenses and Kabaddi getting 4 times the money expected, the revenue gathered for Cricket has actually dipped causing concern for many in the BCCI.

Courtesy all the revenue a number of disciplines have completely lost out in this rat race of popular sport. Hockey somehow manages to stay afloat. The history of sport in India goes back to the Vedic era. Sport or physical culture was an ignition through religious virtues in ancient India. The mantra in the Atharvaveda, quotes, “Duty is in my right hand and the fruits of victory in my left.” In terms of an ideal, the same words hold the same sentiments as the traditional Olympic Oath: “For the Honour of my Country and the Glory of Sport.”  India has had a series of lost sporting history. Some common exceptions amongst these are sports like:

Satoliya: The sport is also called Lagoria or more commonly termed as Pitthoo still played in many small towns in the country. This simple game requires 7 stones in descending order from the top which is hit by a cloth ball to dissemble. The task though begins when one team tries to assemble as the other tries to hit each player with the cloth ball to gain a point.

Kho Kho: Probably the most popular tag game in India. It consists of two teams. The first  team sits/kneels in the middle of the court/field, in a row, with adjacent members facing opposite directions. The second team is required to tag. The team that takes the shortest time to tag/tap all the opponents on the field is declared the winner.

Dhop Khel: Dhopkhel, is a game, still popular in Assam is quite similar to Kabbadi. Dhop is the name for a rubber ball that two teams throw across a central line into each other’s courts. Each team is then required to send a player into the opponent’s court; the aim is to catch the ball his team throws and make his way back to his team boundaries without allowing the opponents to touch him to earn points.

Akhada Wrestling: Well there’s no surprise to the amount of commercial appeal the sport has got pretty recently and all credits to the new releases : Sultan and Dangal. However, the sport is far-far away from the popularity it once had. Akhara wrestling has now been limited to a cultural activity in parts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and is limited to a weekend leisure sport for many.

As India walks into Rio with aspirations of countless medals, there remain many within different villages and small cities of the country that still work hard with dreams of their heritage discipline to someday feature on the biggest stage.
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