Meghalaya a sports unfriendly State

By Barnes Mawrie

The origin of sports goes back to pre-historic age, some 15,300 years ago. Remaining depictions of Sumerian civilization (3000 BCE) show that sports was common among them. The Egyptians (2000 BCE) used to have various types of sports like wrestling, weightlifting, swimming, long jump, archery, rowing and fishing. The ancient Greeks (1500 BCE) were lovers of sports and games and they had different kinds of games. The ancient Greeks were the first to formalize sports and games with the first ever Olympic Games held in 776 BCE in the city of Olympia. The Romans were great lovers of sports and games and they built gigantic and state of the art colosseums in every provincial city. History of ancient India proves that various forms of sports and games like wrestling and archery existed.
Sports and games were considered vital to the state in ancient times for the reason that they promote discipline of young men and women and prepared them for battles. These youth were ready-made warriors in times of emergency since they were physically fit and combatant. The Roman army was feared by everyone because of its discipline and the physical fitness of its soldiers. This was facilitated by the regular sports and games that the empire promoted. As the old saying goes “the heartbeats of Rome are the sands of the colosseum.”
The tribal communities of Northeast India used to have an ancient institution known as “bachelors’ dormitory” known by different names in different tribes. This institution used to be the training place for the youth both boys and girls. Here the youth were taught to participate in traditional games and sports like wrestling, archery, sword fencing, javelin throw and traditional martial arts. Unfortunately, this institution has disappeared altogether and this should be considered as a great loss to the communities. It is in this context, that the state government should give priority to sports and games, not only because they discipline our youth, but also because they can be adopted as professions by our talented youth.
Manipur is a model state in our region when it comes to priority given to sports and games. No wonder this state has produced sports persons of national and international fame like Mary Kom, Mirabai Chanu etc. The state has successfully hosted the National Games in 1999 and it provides ample infrastructure and support to various disciplines of sports and games. These persons have brought fame and glory to our region and we are sure that they would do the same in the coming Paris Olympics in 2024.
We as Meghalayans, however, have nothing to cheer about when it comes to sports and games. So far our state has not produced any sports person of international renown. Are our youth not physically fit or are they not talented and gifted for sports? The answer is definitely negative. Our youth are as fit as other youths of the country. What is lacking however is the opportunity and the goodwill of the state to back them up. When it comes to sports infrastructure our state fares deplorably. The other day as I was passing through Polo, I happened to have a dekho at the first division football ground. I was shocked to see the condition of the playground. What used to be a lively ground where important matches used to take place, has today become literally a jungle. The playground is outgrown with bushes and wears a deserted look. Soon enough we may find some wild animals occupying that place. This is a perfect image of the state of sports in Meghalaya.
We are told that this year the state would host the National Games, but as of now it looks like an impossibility. If the main venues where sports and games had been taking place for decades, now wears such a miserable look, how can we ever hope to host such a mega sports event? Sports and games in Meghalaya continue to remain a co-curricular activity of schools and colleges. Annual sports days are held in every educational institution of the state and ministers or directors of sports and youth affairs are usually invited to grace the events. Unfortunately, these responsible persons come and go from one function to the other without however being motivated to do something tangible to improve these activities in the state. How much the state allots to sports and games in its annual budget, is anyone’s guess.
Our stadia in Polo Grounds will perhaps become venues only for concerts, trade fairs, political events etc. Consequently, these grounds are missing the purpose for which they exist. Why is the government unwilling to implement projects to promote sports and games in the state? We need a Sports and Games Academy in the state, financed by the government, where the required infrastructures are available and management is excellent. Such an institution would be able to tap the abundant talents of our youth and thereby produce renowned athletes and sports persons. Our state is gradually becoming a drug-infested state and our youth power is being wasted away. Perhaps with sufficient opportunities in the field of sports and games, these youth could be prevented from falling victims to substance abuse. We as citizens of Meghalaya would love to see our young men and women participate in the coming Olympics or Commonwealth Games and winning medals for the country.

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