Punjabi resurgence can be sparked by prioritizing sports

In order to usher in a renaissance in sports, the state government, industry, and private education must take the lead. Children should be brought back to sports fields at the ground level, not through event management. Clubs and tournaments should be sponsored by industry and government leaders.

Gurbachan Jagat

Former Governor, Manipur

Prioritise sports to spur Punjabi resurgence: The more I see the events unfolding in Punjab, the more I tend to retreat into the cocoon of the past. When I look at the field of sports, I see that it has also become part of the wasteland. Bombay (now Mumbai) used to host the Aga Khan hockey tournament when Punjab dominated hockey. Invariably, the Punjab Police hockey team reached the finals ( Prioritise sports to spur Punjabi resurgence ).

(There was no TV) Punjabis from the southern and western parts of the country would flock to watch the match. As a result of Punjab’s dominance, it was an event one looked forward to with pride. The Beighton Cup in Calcutta (now Kolkata) also drew Punjabis from around the world to watch the Punjab Police. There were 14 Olympians from Sansarpur alone, a village on the outskirts of Jalandhar ( Prioritise sports to spur Punjabi resurgence ).

Ajit Pal Singh, Balbir Singh Sr, and Udham Singh are all legendary names in Indian hockey. After Independence, the country won three consecutive Olympic gold medals (1948, 1952, 1956), as well as the 1975 World Cup. Despite the good representation of Punjabis in the Indian team today, hockey in Punjab and India is a shadow of its former glory. Cricket has replaced hockey as the national sport. Punjab’s youth have not taken to it like those in other states. There are a few exceptions, including Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Arshdeep Singh, and Shubman Gill.

MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj have all come from mofussil towns rather than metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Kolkata or Delhi.

Gama Pehalwan of Jabbowal, Amritsar district, commonly known as Rustam-e-Hind, Dara Singh (also Rustam-e-Hind), and Kartar Singh were all great wrestlers from Punjab. In the rural areas of the state, wrestling was the most prestigious sport. In rural Punjab, sports were regarded as cultural events. Local wrestlers and massive crowds competed in wrestling competitions called Chhinj. Village teams played kabaddi matches that attracted large crowds; the top players became household names. Other sports included gatka and lifting weights, such as heavy stones or sacks of sand. The Kila Raipur Sports Festival, started 90 years ago by the Grewal Sports Association, showcases this aspect of rural life.

As schools and colleges developed, they became the nurseries of sportsmen. There was a much-anticipated match between DAV College, Jalandhar, and Khalsa College, Amritsar, that drew thousands of students every year.

Several decades ago, football experienced a brief renaissance with the arrival of the Punjab Police team, Leaders Club of Jalandhar, patronized by industrialist Dwarka Das Sehgal, and JCT Club of Phagwara, patronized by Samir Thapar. National level players such as Jarnail Singh, Inder Singh, and Sukhwinder Singh were produced during this period.

Punjab was scouted by East Bengal and Mohun Bagan for players. Ajmer Singh (400 m), Parduman Singh (shot put and discus throw), Gurbachan Singh (decathlon) and Milkha Singh (400 m and 200 m) represented Punjab in athletics too, but where are they today? Shooting is the only sport in which Punjab has produced an Olympic gold medalist – Abhinav Bindra. As a golfer, Jeev Milkha Singh has won many major trophies on the European and Asian circuits and brought laurels to the country. Sports schools and colleges were established by the state. What have they produced? Coaches have produced what?

Haryana is among the states that produce top wrestlers, boxers, and even athletes today. Haryanvi boys and girls grind their way to national and international glory in akharas of Haryana and Delhi. Boxing rings, athletic tracks, and stadiums are bustling in Haryana, Delhi, the North-East, Maharashtra, and Kerala. Every morning, 2,000 to 3,000 boys and girls would train in a stadium in Imphal. Baseball and basketball skills were imparted annually by US trainers. Boxers and weightlifters have won multiple medals, while footballers are excelling at the national level.

In order to usher in a renaissance in sports, the state government, industry, and private educators need to take the lead. In order to bring back children to sports fields, there should be no event management. Clubs and tournaments should be sponsored by industry and government leaders. There is a need for scholarships at the high school and university levels in Punjab. In order for Punjab to attract national clubs, the industry and government should sponsor prestigious tournaments. A patronage system is all the more important today, since the state seems to be careening once again towards the abyss of chaos, making patronage all the more important.

The Punjab Police teams excelled in hockey, football, basketball, and athletics due to the passionate support of leaders like late Ashwini Kumar. Our youth need to be engaged in meaningful activities in order to stop the exodus to foreign shores. It is imperative that sports be at the forefront of resurgence of the Punjabi spirit – to excel, to be number one, to once again be the sword arm of the nation, the Gama Pehalwans, the Daras and Milkhas of India, and the leading entrepreneurs in every field. As the Duke of Wellington famously remarked, “the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.”. Our playgrounds will teach us individual excellence and the miracle of teamwork.

The Punjabi youth are no longer attracted to sports as they once were, and that is the malaise I wish to highlight. According to Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games: “The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; in life, the most important thing is not to triumph, but to struggle; the most important thing is not to conquer, but to fight well.” Spreading these principles builds a stronger and more valiant humanity.

307 thought on “Punjabi resurgence can be sparked by prioritizing sports”
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