India vs Pakistan that memorable win and Cricket vs Hockey that old debate

Posted on March 31, 2011

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So, India beat arch rivals Pakistan in the semi finals of the 2011 Cricket World Cup at Mohali today. The whole country is celebrating except a few jealous Hockey and Soccer fans. If any of them is left that is.

This is a fictitious conversation between me and a critic who is upset with the step motherly attitude towards all other sports in the country. It is a follow up to my previous post on the same subject, ‘Cricket mein haar aur desh pe waar.” The previous one was written with better facts and arguments so do read it.

Him: Basically cricket over shadows every other game in the country and that’s unfair. All teams are playing for the same country, whether it is soccer or hockey, then why different enthusiasm when India wins in Cricket but no value when we win in other games? Did you even know in recent time we won a football match too against Pakistan with 3 -1. No body knows, no body celebrates.

I really didn’t know so I found out. Here are the facts: At the start of this year, Indian soccer team qualified for 2011 AFC Asia Cup after 24 years. They lost all matches. This was followed by qualifying matches for 2012 AFC Challenge Cup. It was in these qualifying matches that on 23rd March 2011 India faced and defeated Pakistan by 3-0. After 3 matches (2 wins and 1 draw) India has now qualified for the AFC Challenge Cup. This is all great. I am happy for India. But can this in anyway match up  to the excitement and the joy the nation faced today after India defeated Pakistan at the world cup semi finals. It is unfair to even compare the two.

Me: Ok, I hear you. And this is not new, this debate has always been there. And am all for cricket. I think the attention cricket as a sport and its players get wasn’t served on a platter to them. The team performed consistently to earn it. In other sports India don’t perform, so no attention, isn’t it simple?

Him: No, don’t undermine their achievements,  they do perform, in fact they probably put in more hard work than any of the cricketers do to even achieve a bit of success because success don’t come easy in Soccer. With over 180 countries playing soccer it takes a lot of effort to even get recognized as a team and our team does put that effort, its too bad that you don’t care to know that. How many countries play cricket? Not more than 18 I think.

Me: Ok I hear you, its harder to perform as a football team, competition is tough, so we are not the best. We are best at cricket, Let’s celebrate what we are best at. Why this jealousy? A country doesn’t have to be best at all sports. If soccer isn’t happening then so be it, why so much angst against cricket because of soccer’s failure? You yourself said we are not best at Soccer because it’s a difficult game, competition is tough but we have our moments of glory and success, like the recent win against Pakistan. All this is great. And I am sure the few soccer fans in India do keep a track of the soccer scene and when there is a reason to celebrate they do indeed celebrate in their own way. True, there is no mass celebration and that’s because the game doesn’t have a mass appeal. How can you argue with what does and what doesn’t have mass appeal? Its like Sunil Shetty fretting over, “Why don’t I have the same following as SRK”

He: But what I am saying is that we could do better if the system would give us better pay, better opportunities and better facilities.

Me: Now that is the vicious circle of what came before? The chicken or the egg. Our soccer / hockey teams are underperformers so they don’t have enough money and media attention. And they are underperformers because they don’t have money and media attention. You can never fully answer this question which came before? We live in a capitalist society, money fetches more money and money fetches success and success fetches money. Yet in the true spirit of hard work it has always been said that money is never the reason why you cannot succeed, as long as you have the zeal in you, you give your best.

Him: Its not just about the money, what about the facilities? We need better coaches, better practicing grounds, better opportunities and the Government have to provide us with that. The Government should not discriminate between two sports.

Me: First, don’t blame the government for everything.  Government doesn’t have an evil agenda to ignore or undermine any game. Cricket just happens to be our stronger point, the team performed over the years, the nation’s pride in and love for cricket grew stronger with time and automatically more resources started getting pumped into it. It’s a natural evolution of sports in the country. Its not like it was written in our Constitution that we’d undermine all other games but cricket. Second, this is highly speculative, “We would have performed better if we had better facilities.” If only all great achievements in the world were so conditional. There are many small African countries that play soccer and they don’t even have half the resources or facility we have. These  are countries that are far more poor and less developed than India. Yet they practice, they perform and they qualify for the World Cup. But India never qualifies for the world cup? Why? All because we don’t have the facility? Not once in so many years and blame it all on Government? This is so typical of a loser, I failed because everything in the world is unfair, from the system to the people, every thing else is to be blamed but my own performance.

There are 54 African football playing nations out of which 6 qualified for the 2010 FIFA cup, these were Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa. Do we fully know what kind of swanky facilities and money are being showered upon these teams by their government? Are we going to give the credit of their performances in the FIFA cup (fact that they even qualified is an achievement) to the facilities and resources their Goverment gave them or will we give the credit to the sportsmanship, the zeal, courage and determination of the players?

HOCKEY

If we learn anything from the film Chak De India it is that instead of whining and cribbing about the money and the attention you didn’t get, just put your 100% and perform. The day you perform the world will no longer be able to ignore you. After the success of Chak De, last year we did put our focus on our national game, hockey. We hosted the 2010 Hockey World Cup, corporate money was pumped into the game, Hero Honda gave us the slogan, “Phir dil do Hockey Ko.” Stars from Bollywood to Cricket were roped in for the campaign, the nation’s youth followed with much excitement – what did we get – poorest of poor performance by Indian hockey team they ranked 12th (3rd last) in the tournament. Didn’t even play the quarter finals. Such abysmal performance by the Indian hockey team or football team is utter shame and we are supposed to empathise with them?

How are we supposed to feel anything but embarrassment for such performance. Why are we then blamed for celebrating the glorious victory India achieves over the cricket playing world.

GOVERNMENT’S AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

The above argument didn’t have a logical conclusion. Even though it was never really put in proper words, what the critic meant to say was that there is a need for Government’s affirmative action to lift the conditions of sports like soccer and hockey in the country. I agree with this in spirit because I am a pro affirmative action person. For those unfamiliar with sociology terms ‘affirmative action’ means ‘reservation.’ Reservations or other forms of affirmative actions are required for people and causes which are systematically oppressed, for example, women and dalits. I am not sure if sports fall under this category.

But I can say this, the government’s support could have helped our hockey or soccer team’s performances if, on a scale of 10, they were at least at 4 or 5. With the current performance level being at ZERO I doubt anybody can help them.

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