Scrap the Arjunas
Aug 16 2013
Disgruntled sportspersons crying foul over being overlooked for state awards shows an utter lack of sportsmanship
The ongoing brouhaha that has been kicked up by a couple of sportspersons who — rightly or wrongly — are aggrieved at missing out on what they feels is their due is merely the latest manifestation of this yearly breast-beating exercise.
It was not always so, but over the years, it has become fashionable to go public in protest against perceived discrimination over the statuettes (and perks) that go with the Arjuna and Dronacharya (for coaches) awards, and lately, the Khel Ratna.
For a long time, selection for the awards was an arbitrary one and scores of deserving athletes found their names on list of those discarded on the floor of the committee room.
Milkha Singh never received the award in his prime, finally getting it in as a consolation 2001 (which he promptly rejected) almost four decades after he was done with athletics as a career. And his is just one of several prominent examples of the arbitrary manner in which awardees were once selected.
In the last few years, there has been a greater transparency over the short-listing of award-winners. Yet, protests seem to erupt each year for sillier and sillier reasons. Some years ago, a Haryana athlete brought truckloads of “supporters” down to the capital to back his cause after he was overlooked for that year’s Arjuna.
Among the revised guidelines for the award, an athlete has to have shown qualities of “leadership, sportsmanship and a sense of discipline,” besides sporting achievement.
By those standards, those crying foul, in a sense, disqualify themselves. Not just that, as public figures and athletes, they end up setting an unfortunate example to their juniors as much as their fans.
The message being sent out, clearly, is: “If you feel hard done by, shout as loudly and persistently as you can, and hope someone with influence notices.”
What it has to do with sportsmanship is hard to say. And it is hard to ignore the fact that besides the recognition, the awards carry with them significant perquisites, some of which are lifelong, begging the question — just what is the fuss about really?
As former India shooter, Moraad Ali Khan, put in earlier in the week, “sportspersons who are now demanding that the award should have been given to them should think before making such irresponsible statements. They are not only questioning the collective credibility and judgement of the stalwarts who have been responsible for India’s sporting glory for multiple years but also insulting the country’s entire sporting community.”
There will always be a disgruntled element in any and every field. How much value should such complaints be given is the moot issue. In cases of clear and glaring injustice, certainly. But when it comes to marginal differences, where does one draw the line?
These are after all, awards for sporting excellence, and sportsmanship. If one criterion is so blatantly flouted merely to air one’s unhappiness, should such a platform even continue to exist?