Kiren Rijiju. (TOI Photo)
NEW DELHI: Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju has said that those who have dedicated their life to sport and representing the nation at international events should be respected in the same way as those who win medals.
Speaking at the virtual farewell organised by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) for former athletics chief coach Bahadur Singh, Rijiju said that while the central government is willing to support any athlete that has represented India at international meets, he hopes the state governments similarly lend a helping hand.
“It is important that athletes get respect,” said Rijiju. “Dignity, respect and honour of players has to be maintained at every level of the society. If we cannot give athletes at a higher pedestal of recognition in society, it will send a wrong message. Athletic achievement comes with dedication, discipline and commitment. We must ensure that our star athletes are respected at every level.
“When I hear that a former player does not have money for treatment or are suffering financially, I feel very sad. So we keep trying through the government to help athletes in whichever way we can.”
Rijiju said that those who win medals at big international meets find it easier to get sponsorship deals but the same is not the case with those who don’t win.
“Those who could not win anything but dedicated their lives to sport should be helped by society and the government to live a good life. That’s why we had decided that anyone who has represented India at any level will be given help whenever they face any difficulty and I hope that the state governments also help them out.
“But it’s not just the government, society as a whole should come together to help out the needy sportsperson. For sport to be a big part of life, the sportspersons should be given the respect they deserve,” he added.