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The cradle of sportspersons: North East India

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India has been on a medal winning spree at the ongoing Commonwealth Games 2018 in Australia. It all began with weightlifters Sanjitha Chanu and S Mirabai Chanu delivering the first set of gold medals. This came as no surprise as the North Eastern states have always been a hotbed for sportspersons. Football stars Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chhetri, tennis hero Somdev Devvarman, Olympic gymnast Dipa Karmakar, weightlifter Kunjarani Devi, and boxing legends Dingko Singh and Mary Kom – the list goes on and on. We give you a lowdown on this phenomenon and tell you why the Seven Sisters are the go-to states for sports

1. Sports as a culture
North-East India, with a population of over 45 million, is just 3.76 percent of India’s total population. Yet, they are home to some of India’s most recognised international players. School children are encouraged from an early age to participate in sports. There is a general opinion that sports should be an intrinsic part of school and college curricula. A survey showed that the majority of people in these states believe sports help curb anti-social behaviour.

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2. Numbers matter
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) conducts several programmes around the country to nurture talent. In 2017, 14,000 children were provided training in 27 sports disciplines. Out of the 4,000 girls being trained, 23 percent were from Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. One of the 14 SAI Regional Football Academies in the country is in Imphal. The government also plans to set up a SAI National Archery Academy in Guwahati.

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3. Funding dreams
The North Eastern states are also the highest receiver of funds under various government sports programmes such as Khelo India, the Urban Sports Infrastructure Scheme and the erstwhile Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan. Assam’s expenditure on sports is reportedly is around 35 percent, which is higher than the national average of 16 percent. Sports in these states also benefit from sponsorships from corporate and public sector undertakings. The Khelo India programme also provides funds to conduct sports events. Such programmes help create sports facilities and encourage participation among youngsters.

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4. Giving back
Not only do North Eastern sportspersons bring glory to India, they also help nurture upcoming talent. Bhaichung Bhutia set up the Baichung Bhutia Football Schools to train the next generation of footballers. Mary Kom, India’s only woman boxer with an Olympic medal, opened the Mary Kom Regional Boxing Foundation in Manipur. Former world champion and four-time Asian champion Laishram Sarita Devi has been training young boxers at her academy in Manipur. Kunjarani Devi is currently the coach of Indian weightlifting team. Her wards, Sanjita Chanu and Mirabai Chanu, have made India proud at the Commonwealth Games.

‘Dum Maaro Dum’

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The rest of India could do well in following the example of the North East. Incorporating sports
into a child’s development will also go a long way in improving our sports culture. In the
meantime, let’s cheer for our talented sportspersons in the Commonwealth Games!

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