Traditional Sports Must Be Linked With Employment Opportunities For Them To Survive

Suave, witty and a go-getter, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is among the very few politicians who are not ruling the sports fiefdom just for the sake of ruling it. As the president of Wrestling Federation of India, Singh has done some credible work that will have a long-lasting impact on the game in India. In this free-wheeling interview with Pramod Kumar, Singh talks at length about the Sport and its future in the country.

Wrestling Federation had earlier announced that it will organise a Wresting League all over India, but it appears that the programme ran out of steam following a short stint in Delhi. What are the reasons? And how do you aspire to nurture world class talent in the absence if such a league?
We have neither changed our vision nor the programme. The initial plan was to start a talent hunt programme in every city. However, this plan has been slightly postponed because of some technical and practical issues. We are committed to take this programme across the country after its roaring success in Delhi. We have noticed unprecedented enthusiasm among youngster vis-àvis wrestling and body-building, and we are committed to capitalise on this enthusiasm. And we are positive that we’ll achieve our goals. We will provide a pedestal to the youngsters, which they can use and bring glory for the game and the country.

Rumour has it that demonetisation and apparent cold shouldering by prospective franchise owners were some of the reasons behind the scuttling of the League…
There were some practical problems that have been done away with now. As I mentioned, we are all set to launch it in other cities as well. We needed a break to revisit our model and ponder upon the financial angle of the entire venture. We have recalibrated it and are now all set to implement it in other cities. We will finalise the outline of the programme following the Assembly Elections. The kind of support that cricket receives is still missing in wrestling. Apart from the government aid, there’s hardly any support as of now. If private players also lend their support to this game, we’ll be the most powerful wrestling nation in the entire world. We can produce a galaxy of World Number 1 stars.

You stressed on the talent hunt aspect. How many youngsters have been selected as of now?
The talent hunt is still going on. It’s a long process. We have selected some boys at the national level. We need to focus on these talents. We will extend the best training that is available, and need to hone their skills. This can’t be done overnight.

Can you give us a rough estimate of how many such youngsters at the national level are being trained?
We have selected 2-3 boys in every weight category. In total that reaches to about 25-30 boys. We will first focus on these boys and extend them the best training and infrastructural support. We need to make world class wrestlers out of them.

Discipline is the cornerstone of Wrestling. What we saw in the last world cup and Olympics was deplorable. It was heights of indiscipline. What steps are being taken to correct this lacuna?
What happened during the last world cup was indeed unfortunate. The matter reached to court, something which brings a bad name to the players and the game itself. Both players were adamant on their respective stands. Shushil was insisting on trails. It is a normal procedure in other countries, but we never had the tradition of trails here. Our tradition had been; the wrestler who makes his way in the domestic selection process is the one who is sent abroad too. That’s why the entire situation got out of control.

If private players also lend their support 
to this game like they do in other countries, we’ll be the most powerful wrestling nation in the entire world

Barring this one incident, there was no widespread issue of indiscipline among the practicing wrestlers. We are very strict on the issue of discipline. The moment we are informed of any misconduct, we act swiftly. However such incidents are extremely rare. Our boys are very professional and disciplined. The biggest problem we are facing is that of jobs for the wrestlers. Take for example Uttar Pradesh. Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party has done nothing for the benefits of the players. This is in stark contrast to the decision taken by Bihar Government that has decided to look for job prospects of any player who has participated at the national level. In Uttar Pradesh leave alone participants, even the medal winners are running from pillar to post for such considerations. I have personally made efforts to bring Services, Railways around for such considerations. However Uttar Pradesh government appears to be completely oblivious of anything.

The Uttar Pradesh tableaux in the last Republic Day Parade showcased wrestling. But the reality is probably opposite. The game seems to be dying in Uttar Pradesh, which also happens to be your home state. The onus lies on the state government. The players are not extended the respect that they deserve. Whether it is Samajwadi Party or Bahujan Samaj Party, sports has no place in their policy formulation. It does not even figure in their agenda. As far as Samajwadi Party Government is concerned, it has taken sports to its nadir. There were 1600 vacancies on sports quota in the police force and the government failed to fill it all up. Government does recognise some players with Yash Bharti Award but the criterion behind the selection is entirely political. It has nothing to do with talent. Only athletes form a particular caste are promoted.

There appears to be huge interest among females towards the sport of wrestling. What steps are your federation taking to make this count? As far as my role as federation president is concerned; I have developed a wrestling centre in my hometown solely by my own efforts. We have selected over a hundred kids from all over Uttar Pradesh for training. However, one centre is not enough. In Haryana, veterans of this sport as well as the general population are pretty aware and supportive of wrestling. That is why in a small state like Haryana, we have several dozen centres. Uttar Pradesh, in contrast, has only one. That too, by my personal efforts. As many as five girls from our academy have won medals at the national level. We have also provided logistical support to centres in five states. However, respective state governments need to do more. Governments in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have recently shown some interest, but we need more and more state governments to come forward. Girls, particularly from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Maharashtra, are showing great potential. State governments should work further to nurture these talents.

It is seen that auxiliary support system is present in only few sports. Kids are not encouraged by their parents because they are more worried about their child’s financial security. Since sports do not assure employment, parents are reluctant. Leave alone respective state governments, even central government has not done enough. What is the federation’s opinion on this aspect? I agree that a sport cannot flourish until it is linked with employment opportunities. Unless we give young players a sense of financial security, they will be reluctant to come forward. I am personally making an effort to convince the government to bring a Bill in this regard. I have asked the government to look into the possibility. I will personally appeal to Prime Minister Modi too. However, these things take time. We are committed towards the betterment of players.

As Far As Female Wrestlers Are Concerned; Girls, Particularly From Up, Haryana, Delhi And Maharashtra, Are Showing Great Potential

Apart from traditional wrestling, professional wresting such as WWA etc also needs to be promoted. Your take? Professional wrestling or WWA is not our priority. We will focus on Olympic sports. It brings laurels to the individual as well as the nation.