North East, the easternmost region of India comprises of eight states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. A land of undulating hills and plains with luxuriant green cover, and a wide variety of rare and exotic flora and fauna, is also home to some of the biggest sporting names of the country.
A positive sports culture in the North East has yielded several medal winners and world champions who have showcased their talent on the global stage. It has slowly become the sports hub of India, helping many youngsters and their families to come out of poverty through sports.
North East is home to some of India’s most recognized sports personalities. Amateur boxing world champion M.C. Mary Kom, footballer Baichung Bhutia, boxer L. Sarita Devi, archer gold medalist Jayanta Talukdar, weightlifter K. Sanjita Chanu, and Mirabai Chanu are some of the most popular names to emerge from North East.
The youth out in North East are well-known for their inclination towards sports, especially Manipur. In fact, out of the entire 2016 Rio Olympics contingent, around 7% belonged to North East India. Assam witnessed a plethora of national and international sporting events that has put the state on India’s map as one of the most promising states for sports during the last three and a half years.
But why is sports at the forefront of North East? Well, firstly, as a child growing up there, you are motivated to participate in sports. They believe sports should be implemented as a compulsory part of school and college curriculums as it helps in the overall development of their youth.
Let’s talk about generating funds and using them for sporting activities. Around 9% of the national demand for funds to develop sports infrastructure and conduct sports competitions under the new central scheme ‘Khelo India’ came from the North-Eastern states. The state of Assam’s expenditure on Education and Sports at 35% is much higher than the national average of 16%.
The North-Eastern states have not only given India its biggest sportspeople, but also role-models to the people of that region. These athletes have also given back a lot to their communities by supporting and guiding young athletes.
In June 2017, a whopping 14,000 talented North East sportspeople are being trained under Sports Authority of India (SAI) schemes throughout the country. From this, 10,000 are boys and 4,000 are girls.
22.75%, which is 910 out of 4,000 of girl trainees at SAI centres, are trained in the North-Eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. They are provided with regular sports training in 27 sports disciplines on a residential and non-residential basis in 290 SAI sports centres.
North Eastern sportspeople are very enthusiastic in their demands for better sports infrastructure and facilities. More states should follow the example of the North East, not just to produce better sportspeople, but also to help build a better society for the future generations.