Maneyapanda Muthanna Somaya is a former Indian field hockey player from Coorg, Karnataka. He was a member of Indian squad in many international games, including the team that won the Gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympic Games.
Somaya went on to play two more Olympic Games, viz., 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games, and 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games. He was the captain of the 1988 Olympics team.
A member of the Indian hockey team that won gold at the 1980 Moscow Games, he is happy to see more and more youngsters coming forward to take up hockey seriously, and India’s young players impressed him with their determination at the Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar.
“These days, the opportunities are more in the country. A structure has been formed in most of the sporting disciplines where young talent is encouraged.
They should grab this with both hands. They should focus on sports,” said Somaya, while talking to The Free Press Journal on the eve of the National Sports Day.
Looking ahead for sports in the country in the coming years
Things are looking very bright indeed. We have established our prominence at the Asian and Commonwealth level. The next step is to make a mark at the Olympics.
There have been many new ideas and suggestions. Do you feel they have been implemented if not why?
I feel that there have been many new ideas that have been implemented successfully. The Khelo India scheme has shown great promise in identifying young talent to prepare a wide base of sportspersons for international competitions.
The central and state governments have announced many incentives for successful and aspiring sportspersons that have been well received. Private companies are setting up academies and offering financial aid for sports stars.
Do you feel there is a lack of sports culture in our country? What is the remedy
A sports culture is gradually being propagated among people. There is an increasing awareness of the contribution of sports to overall fitness of an individual.
Infrastructure is being made easily accessible in cities and smaller centres also. An effort is on to integrate sports as part of the curriculum in schools.
India has reduced sports to merely an extra-curricular activity. Your comments
There is an air of positivity in regard with sports in India today. Sports like badminton, kabaddi, table tennis are jostling for space with cricket, hockey and football for viewership.
With the IPL style format competitions in all sports there are lucrative careers on offer. Incentives by the Government and sponsorship by Private companies have given sport great impetus.
Funds have been the main crunch which has been the complaints of many. Your take.
Funds for sports are more easily available today. At the highest level the TOPS scheme provides elite athletes with substantial financial support.
Private organisations like TATAs, Reliance, Jindal and a host of NGOs like Olympic Gold Quest are ensuring that there is a steady stream of funds for sportspersons at different stages of their career.
Your take on lack of Infrastructure, recognition of sports other than cricket, lack of ambition or national plan? I am sure you have a bag full of remedies. Please share
There is already a lot of improvement in infrastructure for other sports in India. These need to be taken to rural areas soon since a lot of the talent is emerging from smaller centres, 2-3 tier cities and villages.
Public-Private Partnership is critical to ensuring that the Infrastructure in the country reaches people even in the remotest areas.
Your comments on our athletes who would board the flight to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics, and hockey in special
I’m certain that India will put up a good showing this time at Tokyo 2020. Shooting, Wrestling and Badminton are good medal prospects. In other events too India can push hard for medals.
Our hockey team has done well in the recent Pre- Olympic test event at Tokyo and this augurs well. We have a sound blend of effervescent youngsters and battle hardened players. We have consistently maintained our fifth position in the FIH rankings for the past year