THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Say sportsperson, and expectation shoots through the roof. But funding? Sorry, the government has its limitations.
Tired of this lackadaisical attitude from the ruling class, a few leading sportspersons have turned to the public for support.
Enter crowdfunding. It is a fight that starts long before glory comes calling.
As the cost of expert coaching spikes as they progress through their careers, many professional athletes from the state find government funding insufficient to take them to the next level. And hence, the relevance of crowdfunding websites. Marathoner O P Jaisha was the first to start the trend in Kerala, prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Following suit are chess prodigy S L Narayanan and fast rising 400 m runner Jisna Mathew.
With government help not forthcoming ahead of Rio, a campaign was started on popular crowdfunding website Milaap.org to help Jaisha. The effort attracted donations close to Rs 4.5 lakh. “I wasn’t even aware of such a website,” Jaisha told Express. “The campaign was actually started by a well-wisher who read about my hardships in the newspapers. The money was transferred to my account and came in very handy for my Olympics preparations.” She said the government only met her accommodation and food expenses ahead of the Olympics. “Everything else during the national camp, including paying for ground maintenance and buying shoes, was done by athletes themselves.”
The Asian Games medallist said she used the money to buy running shoes, which cost nearly Rs 15,000 and need replacements every month, and for travel.
Narayanan, the youngest Grandmaster from Kerala, has collected Rs 1,01,906 from 34 donors during his ongoing crowdfunding campaign on Milaap. “Donations have been in small denominations,” said Sunilduth P, father of Narayanan.
“But as we are reeling under a fund crunch, it will help Narayanan participate in the Aeroflot Open in Moscow.”
He said while the previous government gave Narayanan Rs 13 lakh, they have been waiting for more than four months for Rs 3 lakh the 18-year old won as part of the GV Raja Award.
“There is no other chess player doing this well in Kerala, but the government assistance has been disappointing,” said Sunilduth. Having won bronze in the 2016 World Junior Chess Championship, Narayanan is aspiring to win the world title this year. Kerala State Sports Council secretary Sanjayan Kumar said the cash prize will be handed over in March.
Usha School of Athletics’ (USHA) trainee Jisna is the latest to jump on the bandwagon. Her campaign has collected around Rs 12,000 in two weeks’ time.
“To improve herself ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Jisna has to compete in international events,” said P A Ajanchandran, general secretary of Usha School.
“We first started an online campaign in LetzChange.org for supporting the whole school which raised around Rs 50,000. We are now trying the same with the Jisna campaign.”
The crowdfunding websites, which used to focus mainly on charities, are now turning their attention towards sports foundations giving academies like USHA a much-needed mileage. “We have had donations from places like China and Europe,” Ajanachandran said. Now that our sports stars have started finding their own ways to overcome the lack of funding, it might just be time for sports lovers to stop whining about the government and do their bit by clicking that ‘Donate’ button.