It is crucial for the Government to devise a policy that keeps sports insulated from political impact. Undue interference comes in various forms. Naming stadiums after popular politicians is one such intrusion!
Why aren’t sports stadiums across the country named after athletes? Stadiums and grounds are the domains of sportspersons, not platforms to be exploited for political mileage. The Kochi development authorities plan to rename a stand in the Jawaharlal Nehru International stadium after former Kerala CM, K Karunakaran. This will be, perhaps, the latest hijacking of stadiums by non-playing actors of the State.
In Visakhapatnam the cricket stadium was named after YSR, a factionist chief minister, instead of the greats like Azharuddin & VVS Laxman.
Playing hockey at the Dhyan Chand Stadium, or watching from the stands, is a pulsating affair, an experience much more exciting. There is greatness attached to the name and it inspires players to give it their best. It is named after the legendary hockey player, who was admired even by Hitler at the time.
On the other hand, stadiums, like the Chinnaswamy Stadium (former BCCI president) in Bengaluru, Chidambaram Stadium (former BCCI president) in Chennai, Eden Gardens in Kolkata, Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in Delhi, and the Sawai Man Singh stadium (Maharajah of Jaipur), are all named after significant individuals whose contribution to sports have been nil.
Imagine the disgust when one thinks about names like the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium and the Indira Gandhi stadium.
Few stadiums, like the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, has stands named after former cricketers – Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Vijay Merchant, Vinoo Mankad, Polly Umrigar and Vijay Manjrekar. But why only cricketers? The names of non-cricket athletes should also feature in the stadiums. Dedicating names of our legendary footballers, like Bhaichung Bhutia, to the stands would encourage the game in a country where cricket possesses the entire country.
Look at Europe. Spain’s Real Madrid’s stadium is named Santiago Bernabeu, after one of their greatest players to have worn the Los Blancos jersey in the early part of the 20th century.
The two biggest clubs from Italy, AC Milan and Inter Milan, share a stadium which is commonly referred to as the San Siro. Its real name however is Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, named after the celebrated striker.
Not just stadiums, even roads, buildings, awards etc have political names linked with it. Their craving for constantly being in the limelight has twisted the sporting culture.
The Narendra Modi-led Government must replace the political names at the stadiums with athletes and sportspersons’ identities. Only they have the privilege to have their names graced, not the gate-crashing politicians.