We will resume sporting activity in a phased manner while prioritising safety: Kiren Rijiju

New Delhi: Mr Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State (IC) for Youth Affairs and Sports, Govt of India, today said that the government will allow sporting activity to resume in a phased manner starting with central training facilities being opened to elite athletes.

Addressing a webinar on ‘Corona and Sports: The Champions Speak’, organized by FICCI, Mr Rijiju said, “We’re putting together a plan to allow elite athletes who had qualified for Tokyo 2020 (postponed to next year) and those who have qualification tournaments coming up to resume training at our facilities. The same should be in effect by the end of this month itself”. However, he re-instated that it is still some time before LIVE sporting events can be organised.

Expressing his gratitude towards the sporting fraternity, Mr Rijiju said, “By motivating the nation during this crisis, contributing to the PM Cares Fund and re-enforcing the Prime Minister’s message of social distancing, sportspersons and the sporting fraternity have played a pivotal role in fighting the pandemic.” He stressed on the five important ‘mantras’ prescribed by the Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi – Sankalp, Sanyam, Sakaratmak, Sahyog and Samman, which he believed sportspersons must continue to propogate in our bid to contain the pandemic and recover from its impact.

“The players are the role models, they deserve respect from every sphere of the society. Rules and regulations are in place but this should not stop us from thinking about the interest of our sportspersons. We are here to support the players and not control them,” said Mr Rijiju.

Taking a long term view of how the sports sector could bounce back in the post-Covid era, the Minister also spoke of the need for district and state level sporting tournaments which could be financed under the ‘Khelo India’ umbrella and could pave the path for future champions.

The Minister also urged the private sector to come forward and partner the government in projects that facilitate grassroots development. He mentioned that he was discussing with PSUs the possibility of recruiting more sportspersons to safe-guard their economic well-being.

He also stressed the need to increase knowledge about sports in the country. “We must keep in mind that it’s the spectators who generate money for sports and not the government. The government can play a facilitating role but eventually the health and growth of a sport rests on the popularity of the sport. Sports literacy must evolve in order to make India a sporting powerhouse.”

Mr Pullela Gopichand, Chief National Coach, Indian Badminton Team said, “Cancellation of championship provides time to the players to practice and prepare. It’s also a time for players to recover from injuries. We must utilize this time and keep practicing to get back on field as and when the time comes. We must endeavour to not let this be a setback to any athlete but the onus is on the athlete.”

Mr Robin Uthappa, Indian Cricketer, said “Lets perceive this situation as a pause and take it positively as a welcome break. We must use this time to improve ourselves in every way”. He expressed concern about Cricketers, whose livelihood and economic well-being is directly linked to domestic Cricket and the need to take care of them

Ms Rani Rampal, Captain, Indian Women’s Hockey Team said, “Our team has started few online challenges to raise awareness and funds for the under privileged. We are all staying away from home in the national camps hence these challenges also keep us mentally and physically active.”

Mr Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Indian Footballer, said, “The government is taking steps in the right directions. Even in countries like Spain and Germany they are planning to start the league by June, so keeping the safety of players in mind, the decisions of the government are welcome.”

Mr Sanjog Gupta, Chairman, FICCI Sports & Youth Affairs Committee, said that sports are important for the individual, the society and the nation playing an important role in teaching us resilience, strengthening the sense of togetherness and lifting spirits by inspiring hope. As we strive to save lives and restore livelihoods, we must keep in mind the healing power of sport for society and its role in our emotional and psychological well-being

The webinar was attended by Mr Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General, FICCI along with other athletes, industry players and dignitaries of the sports fraternity. The webinar was moderated by award winning sports journalist Nikhil Naz.