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Bollywood Strangling Sports

The Olympics are around the corner and to build up the excitement the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) named Salman Khan aka Bhai the ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ for this edition of the games. Now Bhai is a beloved character and has endless fan following but is this a joke? Is the decision of someone who has nothing to do with sports being made the ambassador of International level games justified? Is he fit to play the role?

Ambassadors are made to inspire the sports persons, who will compete for the nation. What inspiration can Salman provide? The Olympics are a test of grit and determination to succeed in extremely competitive environment in the international arena, the inspiration that the players require should be someone who has felt the pressure, has been through this, one who has achieved for the country, the players need someone from the sports community to lead them. There is no dearth of such sporting personalities be it Milkha Singh, Leander Paes, Dhanraj Pillay or Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal or Mary Kom who have popularized and encouraged scores of girls into joining sports. If none of the above Sachin Tendulkar could have been a better suited Ambassador. Yes, cricket is not an Olympic sport but the Bharat Ratna winner has inspired many and is a legit sports personality.

This decision by the IOA has got a lot of flak from the sporting community. Olympic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt took to Twitter with fervour demanding the need for a “Goodwill Ambassador.” Legendary athlete Milkha Singh also joined in condemning the IOA’s decision calling it ‘unfair’ and asked the government to intervene.

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With the games around the corner the IOA should be focussing all their energies in catering to the needs of the athletes instead of making controversial decisions that tick them off.

The appointment of Salman Khan reflects how our country is obsessed with Bollywood. This is not the first time such an incident has happened, in fact it’s a regular feat be it the opening and closing ceremony of the IPL, the world cups or even the recently started International Premier Tennis League where giants like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Pete Samparas were considered not enough to bring in the crows so Bollywood celebs like Deepika Padukone and Amir Khan were called in. A Tennis fan would have felt utterly humiliated after watching Amir Khan’s cringe inducing antiques with the tennis racquet in front of tennis giants that day.

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As a keen follower of sports I find this obsession with Bollywood absolutely insulting to sports. It is sad to see sports being overshadowed by Bollywood in India. Yes, we love our film industry but that doesn’t mean we have to drag it everywhere.

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Game.Set.Match.Fix

The Australian open also known as the ‘Happy slam’  was rocked by  allegations of a widespread match fixing racket.  With BBC and Buzzfeed News publishing a report exposing evidence of widespread speculation of match fixing the atmosphere at the Australian has been anything but cheerful.

An average fan may not be aware that Tennis is the most gambled on sport in the world. It allows mid-match bets and the scope for match fixing is immense. Fixing a match in tennis easy, as it deals only with a single player and doesn’t necessarily mean losing a match, but could mean taking money to drop a set or double fault.

Although none of the players were named, the report alleges that all of them have been ranked in the Top 50 and have won a grand slam in single or doubles tournament. What is disturbing, is that the report also states that the sport’s governing bodies have been aware of the suspicious activities involving numerous players, and have been anything but enthusiastic in addressing the problem. These  players have been flagged as suspicious time and again to the Tennis Integrity Unit, but no action has been taken.

The report draws from the August 2007 Poland open match between Nikolai Davydenko, ranked four and Martin Vassallo Arguello ranked 87th.   Davydenko was the overwhelming favorite, yet during the match and hours before it started more than $5 million was bet on his opponent. Seemingly cruising to victory, Davydenko retired early in the third set, raising speculations of fixing. Investigations did take place and although both the players were cleared of any charges by the Association of Tennis Professionals (A.T.P), the new report reveals that Davydenko had refused to cooperate in the investigation and his opponent was found to have extensive contacts with the members of an Italian gambling syndicate.

Lack of transparency in the governing bodies is another obstacle the game is facing. The above is not the only instance of the governing body remaining silent.  In 2013 Marian Cilic withdrew from Wimbledon stating a knee injury when the actual reason was a failed drug test in the previous tournament. Why was he allowed to cite an injury for a withdrawal when a failed drug test was the real reason? Andre Agassi failed a drug test due to the consumption of crystal meth in 1997, the public got to know about it in 2009, that too by reading his autobiography. If the governing bodies themselves indulge in such shady activities, who gives us the guarantee that our beloved sport is clean or at least attempts are being made to clean the muck.

Those close to the sport are not surprised, rumors of fixing have been doing the rounds for quite some time now. In an interview with the BBC, a player, who featured in several tour matches last year and is now a coach said “This (Match fixing) is like a secret on the tour that everybody knows, but we don’t talk about it.”

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic are the only grand slam winners in the past decade. If any of these players are involved in match-fixing, it would  be a calamitous blow to tennis. But the very fact that some of them have come forward and demanded names gives us solace that they might not be involved.

Andy Roddick tweeted: “In the age of leaks and social media, I don’t think secrets exist.” We certainly hope this secret is revealed, for no one wants tennis going down the controversial path football, cycling and cricket went. 

 

This post was published by YouthKiAwaaz.com

This ‘Secret’ In Tennis Is Something That ‘Everybody Knows But No One Talks About’

For me he is peRFection

 

As Novak converted the Championship Point, the Us Open ended with large drops of tears trickling down my face, the dream of the 18th Grand Slam was left unfulfilled AGAIN.  ‘NO!’ I said to myself failing to process what had just happened. Going in to denial, ‘This can’t be happening!’ it seemed like cruel rerun of the Wimbledon final, a déjà vu. Roger cannot lose, not after playing so flawlessly throughout the tournament, not after going the entire tournament without dropping a set. But Alas it wasn’t meant to be with innumerable unforced errors and inability to convert break points Federer handed the title to Novak, just like Wimbledon 10 weeks back.

Unforced errors have been marring Federer for quite some time and by now most of us have been accustomed to it. Then why do we hope for the dream 18th every single time a grand slam commences?  It’s him, it’s the spirit that he gets to the game which forces us to cheer for him every single time and defend him when he makes early exits.

Watching him live a year back was an experience I won’t forget all my life. Yes, it was  like an exhibition match but the class and sophistication he executed in each shot was palpable, the goose bumps I felt on seeing this perfect specimen were real. The tears of joy rolling down my face when he beat Djokovic were real. The passion that Federer exhibits combined with his sincerity is the reason that keeps me hoping that he will achieve his 18th grand slam and many more. It was this passion and determination that helped him conquer Roland Garros. The critics had written him off  even then. But Federer continued labouring for it and completed his career slam. Oh what a fantastic day that was!

At 34, the man is still striving to win everything in sight. The passion with which he plays is admirable. Already labelled as The Greatest Of All Time, an almighty of the game, he doesn’t have anything left to prove, and yet he continues to achieve what others deem impossible. As a fan who has seen him at his highs and lows I often find myself comparing  Roger Federer to ‘The Roger Federer’ who was the undisputed champion of tennis. With games like the quarter final match against Gasquet and the semi against Wawrinka  I see the glimpses of the old Federer which makes me believe that winning another grand slam is possible. Every time he enters a final I hope that he pulls through, for this legend deserves to end  his career on a winning note. But then I contemplate whether I am ready to bid farewell? How do you say goodbye to someone who has given you a decade full of memories?  How do you deal with the fact that the person you associate with tennis will play no more? The thought brings chills down my spine. So I ask myself to  enjoy what I already have, celebrate the magic that he brings. As for the 18th, as long as Federer believes he can, I do too.

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