As the nation celebrates the golden jubilee of the country's independence on a high note of its achievements, in one particular area the tiding is quite disappointing. The area concerned is sports and games. First the shooters who took part in the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) World Cup at Delhi put up a dismal show. Both men's and women's teams failed to secure a quota place for the 10-metre air rifle event ---where they, men in particular, are at their best ---in the Tokyo Olympic.
Then comes the even more disappointing news that the Bangladesh Cricket team visiting New Zealand got whitewashed. Considering the national euphoria over cricket, such a result gives the game's fans quite a shock. The type of defeat in the third ODI is simply unacceptable. Here is one game that the country has taken so seriously even to the neglect of once popular football. The rise of Shakib Al Hasan as the number one all-rounder in the world made the nation proud and the investment in the game is worth making.
Star or iconic players and matinee idols have their sky-high brand values which money cannot buy. No wonder, a top Hollywood actor or actress takes $20-30 million for their performance in a film. The news is that Shahrukh Khan, who has no film released for a long period, has inked an agreement of Rs1.0 billion fee for his part in a next venture. Even this is far less than what a leading Hollywood movie star draws.
Now compare this with the world's top footballer Messi's net worth $600 million a year. He has a monthly salary of $150 million and the rest comes from various sponsors. His nearest rival Christiano Ronaldo draws a little over half his salary but overall counts at $500. These are outrageously fabulous sums in terms of personal income. But it must be admitted that not many rise up to their level in sports and games.
Both heroes and heroines on the silver screen and sportsmen and sportswomen are entertainer. Their physical fitness and skill are not the only quality they possess, they perform consistently at the top level year after year.
This brings us to another question of sporting nations and those with exceptionally good health. There are nations not advanced in terms of development parlance but they have produced the world's best in the most popular games and sports. Some of the champion athletes have come from Africa's poor countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
During the cold war, the communist and the Western countries were locked in an intense rivalry to outdo each other in Olympic and world meets. The message was that human endeavour takes one to the highest level under 'our system'. It is now alleged that East German which topped the Olympic medal list and other communist countries used performance-enhancing drugs to make the miracle happen.
However, it is unbelievable that their success was entirely due to drug. Clearly, the communist countries put an extraordinary emphasis on sports and games and developed an enabling system of producing athletes of the highest calibre. A Sergei Bubka and Yelena Isinbayeva cannot be produced with drug enhancement and these two finest athletes were free from drug scandal ---the latter when Russian athletes were barred from participating in international meets including the Olympics and World Championships.
Now that Bangladesh is poised to be a developing country, there is a need for identifying its grey area on this popular front. The country needs more Shakibs. Chess is another game where the country has come a long way but more needs to be done. The country is yet to have a Viswanathan Anand. In shooting and archery, the country has a real prospect. In some of the disciplines of those sports, the country has produced Asian champions and Roman Sana even captured a bronze medal in 2019 World Archery Championship. Such talents should be cultivated in order to snatch world laurels.
However there are other sports like badminton which hardly receive any patronage. Why cannot Bangladesh players compete in All England Championship or other championships? In table tennis, once Bangladesh was doing well but it is now a forgotten sport. The media also ignore such sports and games. There was even no news about the All England Badminton Championship. No one knows if and when football and hockey will compete at the highest level. It is time now more icons came out from different games and sports. But first of all the areas have to be identified for focussing on consistent improvement through systematic organisation, promotion, care and training.