TOP Scheme Shows How Sports Treated Unequally in India: Advani

Bharat Sharma/ New Delhi
TOP Scheme Shows How Sports Treated Unequally in India: Advani

Twelve-time world champion cueist Pankaj Advani feels the government-run TOP Scheme for India's Olympic medal hopefuls clearly shows how sport is treated unequally in the country.

Advani, who has brought many laurels to the country with his exploits in snooker and billiards, goes on to say that India can improve in the world of sport only if all disciplines are treated at par.

"Personally, it is tough to understand our country's obsession with Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. I know they are big events, I know they come once in four years, but just because of this it doesn't mean they are the be- all of sport.

"So I feel if you are supporting sports and sportspersons, don't have an event oriented policy," Advani told PTI when asked about TOP Scheme, which will fund training for select 75 athletes ahead of the Rio Olympics.

Advani further explains his point.

"Look at the fact that we have world leaders in every sport today. Our sporting standards have improved. Our new generation is all set to take sport to a new level. That is what we should be looking at, so we should be supporting every sport.

"And I am not saying all of this because cue sport is not part of the scheme (TOP). It is great that athletes going to Olympics are getting support, we have nothing against them. It is great to win Olympic medals, we hardly have any of them but it is important to understand that, whether you are playing Olympics, Asian Championships, Worlds or whatever, it boils down to the same thing: you are winning, you are competing, you are getting laurels for your country and I wish they understood that and treat all sports equally. There is a differentiation and I don't understand why," said the 29-year-old from Bangalore.

Talking about the recent tragedy at SAI Centre in Kerala, where four young athletes attempted suicide and one girl passed away after allegedly being harassed at the facility, Advani said, "When we devise a sports policy, the athlete has to be the focus.

"And if athlete is not the focus then all sorts of things will happen. Unfortunately in our country, the policy is such that the athlete is not the focus of it.

"I just feel that it is important for administrators to understand what sportspersons go through. I am not saying it is a very sad state of affairs but if you want your athletes to develop, you have to do everything to make them and ensure they only focus on the game," said Advani.

Advani, back to his Bangalore-base after an eventful stint in England, says he will return to the UK for training but not as much as he used to in the past.

"I am glad I started off the year by winning the nationals in both billiards and snooker. Now looking forward to some of the World Championships that are coming up. Ever since I am back from England, I will give equal time to both snooker and billiards.

"I am just going to go there for training once in a while, not going to participate in many tournaments but I do understand that exposure in England will definitely sharpen my skill, so I will make a few trips but not often as I did in the last two years," he said.

Age is still on Advani's side despite being around for a long time and the ace cueist is still very much enjoying the game.

"I would love to give something back to the sport but don't know in what form. It is something that has crossed my mind but I don't know when I will be taking up that. I am still enjoying playing," he added.

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