TODAY -

No Punching Bag This
- How Many World Titles Does It Take To Gain Recognition? -
- Hueiyen Lanpao Editorial :: December 04, 2008 -



HOCKEY, FOOTBALL, sepak takraw, weightlifting, archery, boxing ... just name the game, and Manipur's young boys and girls will be there to bring home laurels for the nation.

How has this tiny state in the northeastern periphery of the country, while being embroiled neck-deep in backwardness, underdevelopment and, most importantly, an armed conflict for the last five decades, managed to produce so many sportspersons?

This is a question that have been frequently asked and wondered about. Yet in this query and wonderment lies our pride and victory. Pride because these are the sons and daughters of Manipur that we are speaking about.

Victory because these young boys and girls overcome all seemingly insurmountable hindrances and overwhelming circumstances to shine in front of the world.

Hockey players Nilakamal, Thoiba and Tiken, weightlifters Kunjarani and Sanamacha, footballer Rennedy and Tomba, Judoka Tombi, archer Bombyla, boxing champs Dingku, Mary Kom and Sarita - these are only a few of the names whose very mention makes Manipur proud.

World Champion MC Mary Kom and International Boxer L Sarita with M Rachandra at Tulihal Airport, Imphal on Dec 03 2008


There are scores others in the past and dozens more in the present. What is the motivation that drives all these people to take up the difficult and arduous road of sports?

Obviously a passion for the sports. But should passion be the only fuel that drives hundreds of young boys and girls to take up sports as a career? For the optimum growth of a seedling into a tree, apart from passion, you need air, water and nutrients.

Whereas a seedling or a tree might be able to get air, water and nutrients for free, it is not so in the human world. Therefore behind the passion lurk a need - the need for a life sustaining career, the need for financial incentives, and the need for recognition.

Sometimes that tap on the shoulders in recognition of the hard work that our sportspersons have been putting in to bring home the laurels is more important than the money or the odd job given as incentive.

Noted poet and singer Bob Dylan puts it this way: "How many roads must a man walk down / Before you call him a man?"

We take his cue and we ask: "How many world titles must one win / Before you call her a Champion?"

This is precisely what our own boxing legend MC Mary Kom asked after winning her fourth consecutive women world boxing title in Ningbao city of China. It must be noted here that the event held in Ningbao was the AIBA Fifth World Women's Boxing Championship.

Mary Kom won the silver medal in the AIBA First World Women's Boxing Championship in Scanton, USA, 2001, becoming the first woman in India to win a medal in the international boxing event. She followed it up with a gold in the AIBA Second World Women's Boxing Championship in Turkey, 2002, and since then she has been punching for gold non-stop.

Which other sportsperson in the country have been able to manage this feat in an individual event? Not the glamour girl of Indian tennis Sania Mirza, or anyone else we know of.

In this cricket crazy country, perhaps a pint size pugilist's four consecutive world title wins weighs far below a solitary World Cup cricket win by MS Dhoni and team.

Perhaps this is the reason why Dhoni is recommended for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (RGKR), India's highest honour given for achievement in sports, and Mary Kom has been rejected twice.

Or perhaps, judging from the way our weightlifter Monika was dropped out from the Olympic team, it is one more indicator of the stepmotherly treatment being meted out to sportspersons from this region by the people in New Delhi.

Union Sports Minister MS Gill has promised to give justice to Mary Kom in this matter. Whether he actually takes up on his words or whether it was just lip service, only time will tell.

Meanwhile, we will be closely watching, Mr. Gill.





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