Dubai: Despite a glorious performance at the #AsianGames2018, bronze medalist Harish Kumar returned to New Delhi to sell tea, and support his family.
According to a report by Indian broadcast channel NDTV, Kumar said he did not regret the hard times he was facing but was disappointed when “no one came to welcome me home,” after returning from Indonesia.
Kumar is the son of a rickshaw driver and was a part of the Indian Sepak Takraw (kick volleyball) team at the Games 2018. He started playing in 2011.
While Kumar does not have any complaints against the governments, as stated in the NDTV report, he wants a “government job”.
Kumar told news agency Asian News International (ANI): “I have many family members and there is a very meagre source of income. I help my father at the tea shop to support my family. I dedicate four hours every day between two to six for my practice. For my future, I want to get a good job to support my family.
“I started playing this sport from 2011. My coach Hemraj brought me into this sport… I practice every day and will keep on doing it to bring more laurels for my country.”
In a report by newspaper The Indian Express, Kumar’s mother said: “My son also works at tea shop to assist his father. I am very thankful to the government for providing food and accommodation to my son. I am very thankful to his coach Hemraj who has supported my kid to achieve this accomplishment.”
Despite the funds being given to Kumar, online users agree that the situation could be better.
Kumar’s plight, started a discussion online and people requested the Indian government to respect its athletes and provide for them.
Tweep @abmishK posted: “Would request the central as well as state government to please look into the current state [of Kumar] and help him as much as possible…”
@Ansari_Naveed called the situation “disrespectful” and tweeted: “Authorities should come forward and help such people.”
And twitter user @shrinivas_ak asked a valid question: “Does it happen only in India or [are there] some other countries who disrespect their sportsman to this extent?”
This is not the first time a medal-winning athlete has been subject to poverty and has not been provided with adequate benefits from the government. According to a 2015 report by newspaper India Times, the Indian Ice Hockey team had to beg for funds to participate at the Asia division leg of the International Ice Hockey Federation Challenge Cup, held in Kuwait. And in 2013, the Indian Hockey team received a reward of only Rs25,000 (Dh1,273) after winning the Asian Champions Trophy.
In India, excluding cricket, many sports are neglected and athletes receive less money and benifits, despite winning medals and tournaments for the country. Since many athletes come from poor backgrounds, the lack of funds and state support hinders their training.