17 Mar 2024  |   06:04am IST

Where’s my prize money? Ask Nationals medal winners

While the National Games left behind wonderful memories for the people who watched them, that’s not the case with the athletes and scores of volunteers who worked tirelessly to ensure that the event was a success. This is because they have not been paid their dues yet. AJIT JOHN spoke to the volunteers, athletes and government authorities to find out the gravity of the problem
Where’s my prize money?  Ask Nationals medal winners

The National Games were held in Goa from October 25 to November 9 last year. It was a big moment for Goa as it tournament was held after several delays. It was a triumph for rgw State as its athletes surprised everyone with their performance. 

Goa had performed miserably in the earlier National Games held in Gujarat, where they ended up firmly in the bottom half of the final standings. In the games held in

Goa, it finished with 91 medals, standing 9th in the medals tally. This was a pleasant surprise for everyone in the State and the government did not waste any time in making the most of the opportunity.  

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said this was just a start and he expected Goa to move up the rankings in the next National Games and more importantly cross the 100 medals mark. Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Govind Gaude had earlier said the authorities would suitably reward the winners of all the medals won by Goa. 

He said the gold medalists would be awarded Rs 3 lakh, silver Rs 2 lakhs and bronze Rs 1 lakh each. This announcement was made during a speech delivered on November 3. It was an announcement which brought joy to everyone. The feeling was that it was great the government was prepared to make it worthwhile for the athletes who gave their mind and body to their sport to win honours.

Today we are well into the New Year, there have been many more sporting competitions across the country, but till date the money promised to the athletes by the minister is still not forthcoming. Speaking to O Heraldo, the athletes revealed their anguish at the state of affairs on the condition their names were not revealed. 

A Goan athlete, Darshini Naik (name changed) who won a medal in Pencak Silat said till date she had not received any communication with regards to the payment from the government.

Naik said, “I have not received any communication and even the certificates given to us are full of spelling mistakes. The details of the kind of medal are wrong in the document. Many others have had similar experiences. I spent a lot of my pocket for the diet. You have to lose weight so one has to be careful as to what one eats”. 

Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) got involved after they received complaints. A SAG staff took down the correct details and promised to send them the corrected certificates. Months later, nothing has happened and the person who took the details is not traceable.

A veteran athlete, who won a medal in Pencak Silat, said he had not received any communication to that effect. He said he did not usually inquire because the government usually pays. 

He said, “I have been a sportsman for 15-20 years and I am used to this. The cash prize is delayed but it is never stopped. The same holds true in this situation too.”

Another medallist from the same sport, said that he had not received any communication but expressed his confidence in getting the cash prize. 

He said, “The government works that way. It will happen, like I said earlier, it will take time but it will come.” 

Another athlete named Stephen D’Souza (name changed), said he had been representing Goa since his early teens and won medals in the school games. He said he was not paid then for the medals he won. He then started coaching and then for the National Games started playing again. 

He said many of the athletes had not received their money, which was tough because as he put it many athletes had spent money out of their pocket for training and for the supplements.

Stephen said, “We were paid for all this at the last minute which is not enough. We spent around Rs 1.5 lakh from our pocket. Many associations kept us in the dark as to how much money was coming in and how much we would be getting. The government promised to give all the winners a job, nothing has moved on that so far. We spoke to Fatorda MLA Vijai Sardessai, who spoke about this but the government said they would speak later.”

Katya Coelho and her brother Dayne are icons in sailing. Consistent achievers over several years, the siblings struck gold in the National Games. Katya won gold in the IQFoil class. And like all the others, she has not received any money as yet. 

She said, “Nearly 99 percent of the money on the sport is paid for by my parents. The expenses regarding trip to Italy and the training there were borne by my parents. There is no sign of the money promised for the gold medal.”

“We checked, we need to be focusing on the sport but we have to keep going to the office. It is all quite demeaning,” she said.

“Over 15 years, I have won around 19 gold medals for Goa. I pity the athletes who are just coming in now. Sometimes it takes 5 to 6 years to get money for medals won at the national events. ”

Babu Gaonkar, who won the first gold for Goa in the games in Pentathlon, said, “I have not received any intimation and I have no idea when the prize money will come. They did not say anything to me and I don’t know anything”. 

The response from the officials in the State was interesting. Shekhar Salkar, President of Pencak Silat Association of Goa said he would check on the situation and would write. I will check it and write. The doping tests have all been done, I feel there are no more tests. I will speak to the minister.”

Gurudutta Bhakta of the Goa Olympic association said, “The government will give the money. They have given money in all previous occasions so this time will not be an exception. The elections are around the corner so nothing will happen now. Expect something to happen 3 to 4 months after the elections.”

However Dr Geeta Nagvenkar Executive Director, SAG was very forthright and clear when she said, “Nada has prepared the report, we have to check if all the winners for Goa are all clean. The information will go via Nada to the IOA and then it will come to us. This will then go to the Game management system (GMS) who will prepare all the certificates for the winners. The payment will be all done in one or two months.”

That should be some encouraging news for the athletes who have been on tenterhooks for a while. Now the pain in the delay in payment is not only felt by the athletes but by the 3,000 plus volunteers who gave their time and effort at the National Games. They were promised Rs 800 per day.

A volunteer who goes by the nickname Paddy and who gave his time at the athletic event in Bambolim over eight days said food was provided for them and even dinner if necessary. 

He said, “Around 110 volunteers were at the stadium and it was interesting. Funds have not been transferred as yet from SAG to the athletic association. The President of the association told me the money had not come”. 

Another volunteer Prakash Naik (name changed) said he had not received any of the money promised to the volunteers. He said he was working in the sports business and as a former athlete was happy to help out during the athletic competition. He was promised Rs 800 per day and he had not seen a single rupee that was promised.

Gurudutta Bhakta of the Goa Olympic Association was blunt when he said the volunteers should have been paid long back. 

He said, “The money should have been cleared within a week of the games completing. Many of the volunteers are from schools and colleges in Goa. They should be respected. They did their jobs and they need to be paid.”

After much effort, the Sports Minister Govind Gaude was contacted. He said, “There were around 4,079 volunteers for the games. They were divided into two specific kinds of volunteers, student and sports specific volunteers. Student volunteers will be paid Rs 500 per day and sports specific volunteers Rs 700 per day. Everyday a large number of people are being paid their dues. I did not check the list today and I am sure we should be done with this exercise by Monday or Tuesday next week.”

Well one hopes everyone is paid and no one is left behind feeling frustrated. The National Games was a success in terms of execution and it would be nice if everyone was left with warm happy feelings.


Iddhar Udhar