HYDERABAD: In a country crazy about one sport, sustaining interest in others is often a massive task. However, badminton has been able to do that successfully. Propelled by the success of Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and others, the game has grown in popularity.
But it’s not the same everywhere. While it is a norm for the state associations to take care of the travelling expenses of players participating in the national championships, there is one contingent that is not so well off. An eight-member Andaman and Nicobar Islands squad, accompanied by a manager, flew from Port Blair to Guwahati for the nationals. They don’t have a coach and players have had to spend from their own pockets. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands Badminton Association (ANIBA) does not have funds to take care of these expenses.
“All of us have spent close to `10,000 each on travel tickets alone for this event. During the tourism season, the prices may double,” G Sandeep, a member of the Andaman and Nicobar squad, said from Guwahati on Tuesday. Travel by air made sure that the expenses shot up.
The association has also not been able to provide kits to its players. ANIBA is only taking care of accommodation. It was only last year when the Union Territory got back into the scheme of things under Badminton Association of India (BAI), after spending five years on the sidelines. Before getting back into the set-up, 2013 was the last time any team from the islands participated at this level.
“The reason we could not participate was because there was almost no activity in badminton. Even if we wanted to send a team, BAI would not accept it, citing the non-active state the sport was in. From 2018, we started conducting meets for all-age groups. That impressed BAI and we started sending teams for national events,” said ANIBA secretary Ishwar Rao.
There are a lot of impediments still to be circumvented, from lack of infrastructure to shortage of funds and coaches. “There is only one facility in Port Blair where the aspirants can practise. About 200 of us have to fight for space every day. And there are no coaches. Two months ago, we got one coach, but that is not enough when there are hundreds of shuttlers,” lamented Sandeep.
As for the lack of money in the coffers, the official said that they are primarily dependent on the Union Territory’s Sports and Youth Affairs department. Last year, ANIBA got `5 lakh as grant from BAI, but that is too little to bring about any substantial change. “The Sports and Youth Affairs department helps us with coaches. But they themselves say that they are short on funds,” the official concluded.