At the end of the 37th National Games that will be officially declared open this (October 26, 2023) evening, Goa will have probably attained its best ranking in the medals tally. That’s what is hoped, but the question that can be asked is, at what cost?
It may sound strange, when costs are linked to sports glory, but these are not financial investments and expenses that are being spoken about.
In its quest for records at the National Games, Goa is depending on the ratio of 70:30 which has been worked out by the government, wherein in certain sports, 70 percent of the team will comprise Goan athletes, while 30 percent will be drawn in from other states. This is a central government approved ratio that is meant to boost performances of states that are otherwise not doing well in sports. Goa is utilising this ratio in some sports in the National Games.
Goa’s reasoning, and it may sound trivial, for adopting and following the above ratio is that as host of the Games, it wants to climb the ladder of success or rather improve its position in the medals tally and so, it is fielding athletes from other states to boost its performance.
Its last performance at the National Games, in Gujarat, had been at number 30 with five bronze medals. Admittedly, any state would want to improve upon this, but is the formula that is being adopted the right one for this?
The 70:30 formula has been panned politically, with opposition leader Vijai Sardesai coming up with the quip that “Goa jerseys do not make Goemkars.” But now, sportspersons are also upset as, in some sports, this 70:30 formula has been stretched to allow more athletes from other states than Goans in the team, leading to the Goemkars being dropped from the State team. A few have got vocal, with at least three boxers writing to the Chief Minister, while the shuttlers and Sqay Martial artists also displayed their displeasure.
For every athlete of another state wearing the Goan jersey and playing in the Nationals, one Goan athlete’s dreams of representing Goa in the nationals is being shattered and, with it, possibly even the wish to continue in sports.
If the State does not recognise its sporting talent and reward it with a State jersey, why would a sportsperson wish to continue on the field? Only for personal glory? That may be there, but the nationals can’t be individually participated in, and the State has to give its athletes the opportunity to play there for, from here, the best will go on to represent the country.
Something that could be reflected upon is whether states like Odisha, Haryana or even Chhattisgarh opted for this 70:30 formula to attain their place in sports that they hold today. Or, was it that they promoted sportspersons from their state to aim for gold and achieve the medals?
It has to be admitted that there can be an advantage of this formula, but it can come if the outstanding outstation player is with the team over a period of time. Like for instance, for an entire Ranji season where this has been tried and where the local players could gain tips from the sportsperson and improve their techniques.
But, merely calling in somebody for a week before the nationals does not bestow any advantage; it demoralises the rest of the players who have worked hard with the aim of playing in the National Games.
The National Games is not about stars, but it is all about the future stars of the sporting world. Of the 10,000 athletes participating in the Games, the big names are few, so spectators will have to look for potential talent among those that are upcoming. For instance, Goa had two athletes in the Indian contingent for the Asian Games just weeks ago – footballer Bryce Miranda and shuttler Tanisha Crasto. Neither are playing for Goa at the Nationals, busy as they are with other events.
So, give the Goan players the opportunity to play in the Nationals and who knows, they may even shine. On the other hand, if they don’t win medals, so what? Isn’t participation more important than winning? That’s what we were taught in school and believed in.
Yes, Goa requires to win more medals, but those must be won by Goan athletes, sportspersons who are residents of the state, not by borrowing players from other states only to boost the medal tally.