11 Feb 2024  |   04:51am IST

TRACK & FIELD the good athletes

Goa won 92 medals in the recently held National Games in sports as diverse as Sepak takraw, Pencaf Silat, Sailing, Squash, Squay, Boxing and Swimming to name a few. But in the mother of all sports, athletics, Goa drew a blank. A bronze medal won was taken back after the athlete tested positive for drugs. Now the question that needs to be asked is as to what is the State doing to find new talent, track them and then to ensure they reach their potential. AJIT JOHN went looking for answers and it was quite disappointing
TRACK & FIELD the good athletes

Ajit John

woa had rich haul of medals in the recently held National Games, which was possible mainly with the help of athletes imported from outside. The State can actually celebrate victory at sporting events if it is achieved by its own athletes. 

For that to happen, the State needs to have a robust mechanism where the right person for the right sporting discipline is selected and their talent is harnessed. The various sports associations need to go deep inside the rural areas of the State to scout the potential athletes. But is it really happening?

Danuska Da Gama, an executive member of the Goa Amateur Boxing Association was quite frank when she said there was not enough talent and it was not concentrated in urban areas. 

She said, “In boxing, you cannot get talent in urban areas unless they are really passionate. The daring attitude and the energy which is a necessity in the sport, is not easily found in urban areas. The youth is easily distracted by mobile phones and play stations. You will find such kids in rural areas only. We have been trying to push coaches to the interiors, but they don’t stay for long. They ask for transfers and come back to their own centres.” 

She further said, “We don’t have coaches in Vasco, the centre in Chicalim is now closed after being opened in August in 2023 due to the absence of a coach. We need to have boxing coaches in rural areas in pockets like Vasco, Canacona, we tried to transfer coaches but they go with zero seal. We need coaches to interact with the local community and liaison on behalf of the Association. We are willing to go to schools and conduct camps. Last year during the summer camps, boxing was not included.”

Sharendra Naik, Secretary of the Athletics Association of Goa, said 13 talented athletes each from North and South Goa were selected for a camp, which started on January 29 and which will go on till February 12. They will then leave on February 13 for the National Inter-District Junior Athletics Championship to be held in Gujarat. 

“A district meet was already held in December. The Association intends to hold summer camps during the vacations. These camps will have Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) coaches,” Naik said. 

One of the many bright spots during the National Games was the performance of Goa in Pencaf Silat. The President of Goa Pencaf Silat Association, Dr Shekhar Salkar said plans were afoot to start an inter-school competition. Training sessions would be held during the summer holidays. He said it was important to create awareness at the grassroots level.

“Students will be enthused by the fact that if they participated in the school games, they will get marks. I am confident the sport will continue to grow in the State,” Dr Salkar said.

Navin Pai Raikar, President of the Taekwondo Association of Goa, said they conduct camps once a year. 

“The fact that we have a database of students across the State helps us. Many people come to them via reference. The Association members go to schools and meet the PT teachers, who in turn refer to the athletes. We enroll them only after they stay for a month at the camps and perform.  It involves a lot of hard work,” Raikar said.   

The most popular sport in Goa is undoubtedly football. The State however has not been doing very well recently. Losses to teams against whom it would have walked over, has not helped either. 

To change the fate of the sport in the State, Jonathan De Sousa, Vice President of North Goa Football Association, said changes were initiated. He said earlier in the State league, the players used to play five to eight matches. This year all Division 2 and Division 1 teams are in the Goa Pro League, in which each team will play 30 matches this year and in the Second Division, which has all the village clubs, they will play 12 matches.  

He said, “It is here we will get our Under 13 and Under 15 players. They will develop by playing these matches. We are going to strengthen the base for our future. We organise competitions and from here the Pro League teams can get their talent. The teams will provide the training and the Association will organise the competitions.”

Another sport which is catching the attention of the country is gymnastics. In Goa however, the sport is still struggling to find a foothold due to the manner in which it is managed.   

Sudesh Thakur, the President of the State Gymnastics association was pretty blunt when he said there was no infrastructure in Goa for the sport. 

“The National Games was conducted in the State, but the equipment used during the Games was not installed anywhere. It was kept in the godown. The State gymnasts were going to Sports Authority of India (SAI) centres outside Goa,” Thakur said.

He said that all the associations had given a letter to SAG to handover the equipment to the various associations. 

“Giving the equipment is not enough. We also need a place where it can be installed. The Association is also asking for the appointment of coaches who would be attached to the association. If the SAG appoints them, no one questions them if there are performance-related issues and no one seems to know what is going on,” Thakur said.

The minister, he claimed, would then blame the associations. He added that the government’s role was to improve the infrastructure and the sport would be developed by the association. 

He said the association used to conduct training sessions at the sports complex in Margao, but during the Nationals, they had to hand over the premises. The SAG was asked to restart the coaching, but till date nothing has happened.   

When asked what the administration was doing to track and nurture new talent, Secretary of the Goa Olympic Association, Gurudutt Bhakta said, “Nothing”. When asked if there were any initiatives conducted to track talent in rural Goa, his answer was again “nothing.” 

When asked why the equipment purchased for the National Games was locked up in a godown and not used by the associations to conduct training sessions he said some associations had asked for the equipment to be used but nothing had happened despite communication being sent to SAG.   

When the same question was posed to Dr Geeta Nagvenkar, Executive Director SAG, she said, “The matter falls under the purview of Bruno Countinho, Director Training and the details can be gathered from him.”

However when it came to why coaches seem reluctant to work in rural areas and what was being done to sort this problem, she said, “The coaches have to start the session at 6am and if they are reshuffled, care should be taken to ensure that training is conducted in the vicinity. I am aware of the problems and all this would be sorted out. It will be all done within a fortnight.”

 She said after the National Games, a need was felt to strengthen the coaches. The facilities are all there. Now the need is for making an assessment of their performance.  

“I am aware that the total sanctioned staff for SAG is 740, of which 119 are coaches. Necessary action will be initiated to ensure that work takes place satisfactorily on all parameters,” she said.

Bruno Coutinho, Director Training, said the pressure on young people these days was varied. He said children from 5th to the 9 th standard turn up for training, but they tend to pull out when in the 10th standard. 

“This also happens when they go to the 12th standard. The issues are quite complex. The children should be given time to play. That is the only way forward,” he said.

The system is creaking and the people who win medals for the State seem to win them despite the system. The absence of a continuous training culture is missing and the absence of hunger in the belly of the athlete is very obvious. 

There are exceptions for sure, but for a large majority, the lure of sports is the possibility of getting a government job for life if they win a medal. Until this appraoch changes, Goa will continue to depend on imports for succeeding in national-level tournaments.


Iddhar Udhar