North Eastern states in India are home to some of India’s most recognised international players. People like MC Mary Kom with 2012 Olympics bronze medal and five world amateur-boxing champion trophies, footballer Baichung Bhutia, boxer L. Sarita Devi with silver medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Jayanta Talukdar with gold medal and Arjuna Award, weightlifter K. Sanjita Chanu with gold at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, etc. have already put the region in the world map in a glorious way. While North East India constitutes only about 3.7% of the total Indian population, the youth out there are well-known for their inclination towards sports.
Assam and Manipur have synthetic athletic tracks for all-weather competitions. These states have good number of sponsorships from corporate giants and other public sector-undertakings which help in promoting physical education and sports in the region. Children are motivated to participate in sports from a young age and the general opinion of the people here is that physical education should be implemented as a compulsory part of school and college curriculums.
Sports Authority of India (SAI) also set up the first office of its Chairperson in Guwahati in 2015. 22.3% (901 out of 4031) of girl trainees at SAI centres are trained in the North Eastern States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. They are provided with regular sports training in 27 sports disciplines on residential and non-residential basis in 290 SAI sports centres.
Assam and the North East have so much of raw talent that goes unnoticed and several budding sportspersons end up at the district and state level.
With North Eastern boxers like Mary Kom, Shiva Thapa, L. Sarita Devi and Devendro Singh Boxing has given identity to India at the international level, including Olympics. Guwahati is all set to host the biggest football extravaganza in the world, the FIFA U-17 World Cup. As a baby step towards Assam’s goal of making Guwahati the Sports Capital of the country, the 1st Elite (Senior) Men's National Boxing Championship 2016-17, which is the first major event organised in two years by the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) was hosted by the state. The State is hopeful that it will have many tournaments of such stature in the days to come.
It is a matter of pride for the region that sportspersons have given back to their communities by supporting and guiding young athletes from their native lands. Mary Kom Regional Boxing Foundation and the chain of Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools are great examples of this. With the presence of football clubs like Shillong Lajong FC, Aizawl FC, North-East United FC, Royal Waliingdoh FC and a host of local sides from the Shillong, Manipur or Mizoram football leagues, people’s following for the sport in the region has seen a steady growth over the last few decades.
Apart from Assam, most of the state governments of the region have been putting in a lot of efforts to upgrade the stadiums as well as the practice sites. Hope all these well-considered measures would help materialising the dreams of North Eastern people about sports and create world class players India can be proud of.
(Author is a writer. Views expressed in the article are his personal.)