Character, Community and Country: The Essence of Sports
Greetings to my fellow countrymen on National Sports Day! On this day we remember the legendary sportsman Major Dhyan Chand, who mesmerized the world with the magic of his hockey stick and made India a force to reckon with in hockey. I also congratulate all the sportspersons and coaches who would be honoured with the various sports awards this year!
In my view, the three Cs that wonderfully blend with sports are- Character, Community and Country.
All round character building is incomplete if sports are not a part of our lives. With reference to sports I feel, “जो खेले वो खिले!” (The person who plays, shines). Without sports, there cannot be any sportsmanship! Every sport has something or the other to offer. It is a unique opportunity both to sharpen our skills and for our personality development. No wonder Swami Vivekananda once said, “You will be nearer to heaven through football than through the study of the Gita.”
We all live in a community and there are only few better ways to strengthen community bonding than sports. It is a great leveler and a unifier- when we play in a team we are not concerned with the caste, creed or community of our teammates. Neither does their economic status bother us. What matters is the victory of our team. I have seen so many lifelong friendships that have originated from the games field.
We are blessed to see such kind of a wonderful atmosphere of oneness and social harmony during our Khel Mahakumbh. Cutting across all age groups and districts of Gujarat, the athletes compete in various sporting events. Khel Mahakumbh 2012-2013 witnessed a record participation of lakhs of athletes. For this year’s Khel Mahakumbh we are starting a new Under-12 category that will enable us to tap young talent. The Government will also bear the various expenses of the talented youngsters, which will help them pursue their sporting dream in the years to come.
A few years ago, we integrated specially abled athletes to participate in Khel Mahakumbh. The genesis of this happened when a group of young specially abled athletes who had won in a tournament in China came to meet me. I spent two hours with them, spoke to them…this touched my heart. We decided to further our resolve to provide maximum opportunity to them so that they can shine on the field and that is when we decided to integrate them in Khel Mahakumbh. Thousands of specially abled athletes left Khel Mahakumbh 2012-13 spellbound with their stellar performance.
Winning a medal or a cup is a great gift to give to our country. Invariably, success on the games field becomes linked with national pride. Sports also blends with culture when a nation hosts an important sporting tournament like the Olympics or a World Cup that enables it to showcase its history to the entire world. Not to mention the boost to the economy and tourism due to such events.
Thus, it is very important to inculcate a spirit of sports and sportsmanship especially among our youth. Apart from the Khel Mahakumbhs I talked about, Gujarat has set up a Sports University, a unique initiative to harness sporting talent from all across the country. Furthermore, every district will have a sports school to give an impetus to sports. By integrating sports with education, a lot can be achieved. As a part of 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda, Vivekananda Yuva Kendras were set up in every corner of Gujarat with an aim to promote sports. Among the other initiatives under its auspices, sports kits were distributed to the youngsters.
Yet, despite all these efforts there is a lot we have to do. I notice that due to academic pressures, the attendance on games field in decreasing. And if children are not studying, they are playing games on their computers. This is a very big shortcoming on our part. As citizens, let us create the right atmosphere and provide the right opportunity so that every child goes out to play for some time. Is it not better to hit a six or score a goal in a park nearby rather than on the computer screen? Another good idea is to devote some time where the entire family comes together and plays a game together.
I am aware that there are several sports players who are extremely talented but they miss the bus due to financial and logistical constraints. As a Government, we are trying but I also seek your help in this. What if corporates can come together set up a corpus so that budding sportspersons can get constant world class training opportunities along with other facilities, with an aim that India emerges with many medals in the future Olympics and other sporting tournaments? This can be a part of their CSR. Likewise, our NRI friends who never shy away from helping their Motherland can contribute in the same way or even by sponsoring tournaments and helping create sporting infrastructure in their villages.
Together, let us pledge to give our youngsters a happy and play-ful childhood that prepares the foundation of a glorious future devoted to the service of our nation.
Watch : Shri Narendra Modi speaks during the opening ceremony of Khel Mahakumbh 2011 in Vadodara