For the sake of sports

Swimming prodigy Kutraleeswaran Ramesh was merely seven years old when he dazzled his summer camp coach with his talents.

Published: 26th August 2021 04:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th August 2021 04:24 AM   |  A+A-

Kutraleeswaran Ramesh

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Swimming prodigy Kutraleeswaran Ramesh was merely seven years old when he dazzled his summer camp coach with his talents. He went on to win several accolades, including the Arjuna Award and a Guinness World Record in marathon swimming. Yet, in 1998, when faced with a choice between sports and education, he chose the latter. Many athletes in our country have been up  against this ultimatum. Realising the issue, Kutraleeswaran is launching Nanban Sports Foundation in Chennai on August 29, in an attempt to make sports sustainable to all stakeholders.

The state of sports

For a month now, we have been fervently celebrating our victorious Olympic athletes. But what happens when the confetti clears? As history suggests, several award-winning sportspeople are left with no assistance after their shelf life as interactive athletes. “Apart from popular cricketers, there are few professionals who make enough money in their career to sustain a lifetime. As an award-winning swimmer, I also had trouble finding sponsorships for my events. I looked at people who had been there, done that and saw that many had no formidable means of livelihood. This has yet to change in India,” Kutraleeswaran comments. 

With this image of sports as a career, is it any surprise that young players often opt out to pursue other options instead? According to Kutraleeswaran, India has made great strides in the industry — assisting athletes and popularising sports other than cricket — in the past 20 years, but there is still a long way to go. “If today, 10 people participate in an event, the winners represent the quality of our athletes. Now, imagine if 70 did; the quality would be much higher. The goal is to entice the other 60,” he analyses. He adds that this requires scouting talent in the grassroots, even in tier 2, tier 3 cities and villages. As a business student, he explains the issue in terms of investments, “When I invest in something, I am looking at the return on investment. It is the same for these players.”

The plan in action

Nanban Sports Foundation aims to attack these concerns with a two-fold mission — identify and nurture talent from the grassroots and help retired athletes attain financial stability. For the coming two years, the foundation will be focussing on district-level sports individuals. “We are acquiring lists of athletes from the authorities. We want to ensure that the people we incubate, requiring financial assistance, have a cash incentive. The plan is to provide `10 lakh per child over five years for all sports-related expenditure. We will be monitoring the spending to ensure it is appropriately used and the child’s improvement in their field. Their wins will be a byproduct, we are focussing on their performance. For this, we will also be talking to coaches,” he adds. The foundation will eventually expand to team sports and scout athletes with potential directly from schools.

As for retired athletes, they are looking to provide a means of a sustainable life for them and their families, through vocational training or acquisition as coaches in the long run.Nanban Sports Foundation adopted the name of its parent company Nanban Enterprises, where Kutraleeswaran currently works. “It is such a powerful word that means a true friend who is there in the time of need. It resonated with what we were doing,” he shares. On August 29, 15-20 athletes and 3-5 legends will be announced and given their first official cheques.


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