Tribune News Service
Gurdaspur, July 27
The careers of two promising Gurdaspur judokas, who have been selected to take part in the Commonwealth Judo Championship to be held in Walsall (UK) from September 25 to 29, hang in the balance because of paucity of funds.
Brothers Chirag Sharma (Under-14, pre-cadet category) and Sagar Sharma (U-16, cadet) are among five city-based players selected to don India colours. The others are Rio Olympic Games participant Avtar Singh, Jasleen Saini and Ritik Sharma. All of them are products of the Shaheed Bhagat Singh JFI coaching centre. Over the years the centre has become famous for producing national and international level players. Over 50 international level and 100 national level judokas have trained here under coach Amarjit Shastri.
Chirag and Sagar are sons of an auto mechanic, who is barely able to afford two square meals a day. The shadow of poverty lurks in every room of his house, yet his dream of making his sons international players is set to be fulfilled. The Judo Federation of India (JFI) has made it clear to the Punjab Judo Association that the Sports Ministry will not fund the trip to Walsall. Two of the five squad members — Avtar Singh and Jasleen Saini — are employees of Punjab Police and hence face no financial difficulties. Ritik Sharma comes from an affluent background and he too will be on the plane to Walsall.
This leaves the Sharma brothers clutching at straws, and coach Shastri is trying desperately to raise funds for them. “The Commonwealth event provides a big stage for players to showcase their talent,” said Shastri. “I fear all my hard work will go down the drain. How will the brothers feel when they see colleagues from their training centre boarding the flight?”
“I have taken up the matter with Secretary (Sports) Sanjay Kumar, who has asked the Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner to arrange for funds,” he added. “I approached a few prospective sponsors, but they curtly told me that they would have financed the trip if the Sharmas were cricketers. That is the tragedy of Indian sport.”
“Some sportspersons are born rich, some are born into poverty and need to fight for everything,” said Rajesh Kumar, the father of Chirag and Sagar. “My sons fall in the last category. Only time will tell if their dream of performing on the big stage comes true or not.”