The Olympic silver medalist and Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports spoke exclusively to Khel Now regarding Indian Football post the Khelo India School Games.
In a major bid to improve the Indian sports arsenal, the first leg of the Khelo India Games was a success and above all, it was duly accepted by the masses of India. The games are an initiative by the Union Ministry for Youth Affairs and Sports and the Sports Authority of India to prepare our nation for future Olympics.
Col (retd). Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the Union Minister of State (independent charge) for Youth Affairs and Sports has laid the foundation in starting a talent hunt program through the Khelo India initiative, which includes roping in outstanding athletes that would be part of a pool of like-minded players. The players in that pool are awarded a scholarship for their incubation and development in their respective sports, with an eye towards having a roster of players for mega-events like the Olympics, Asian Games and so on.
The retired army officer himself is an Olympic silver medalist, being the first ever sports minister with such a decorated background. He holds as many as 10 gold medals, with the latest coming in the Asian Clay Target Championship in Kuala Lumpur in 2011. Along with that, he also boasts three silver medals and four bronze medals. But, the highlight of his career was representing India at the Olympics in Greece in 2004 and bagging a silver medal in the individual Men’s Double Trap and leaving a mark on every Indian’s heart.
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The minister has been taking a keen look at the current Indian football scenario. Every Indian football fan is keen to know what lies in the future for the I-league and the Indian Super League and many other important issues.
So, Khel Now caught up with him on the sidelines of the games as he opened up on a range of issues. On the future of the country’s top two leagues the retired Colonel said, “Well, you see it is a private matter between the All India Football Federation and the league owners. We, as a government entity do not want to intervene in their dealings. Yes, there have been some talks of their merger but let’s see what happens.”
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The Olympian further talked about backing the AIFF in the third to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2019, “The Sports ministry is there for any help that the AIFF may need for hosting the U-20 FIFA World Cup. They have our backing and we have already committed our support towards bidding for future World Cups.”
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The ministry has been careful in hiring coaches for the national teams and on this he said, “The hiring of coaches is done through an open tender-based system, in which we receive the appropriate CVs and there are many reference checks, that we do not take lightly, at all. As far as the remuneration is concerned, we keep a track of their performances.”
The Khelo India School Games had 16 disciplines with one of the major ones being football. Played at the very same ground that hosted the Indian U-17 team during last year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup, the maiden event had eight teams in the kick-ball sport, divided into two groups of four, in both the genders.
The teams included representation from the hotbeds of Indian football, Mizoram, Manipur, West Bengal, but Goa and the southern states missed the inaugural event. By the final stage of the extravaganza, Manipur, West Bengal, Haryana and Odisha were in the Girls’ semis while, Punjab, Delhi, Mizoram and Haryana were in the Boys’ semis.
Through all the tough competition, Mizoram’s Boys and Haryana’s Girls were on the gold medal podium with Indian football greats, I.M. Vijayan and Bembem Devi appreciating the platform and the performances of the young athletes.
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