Is sport heading in the right direction in Northeast India?

Is sport heading in the right direction in Northeast India?

The United Basketball Alliance concluded its 4th season with the Mumbai Challengers winning their first ever UBA title as they took on Bengaluru Beasts in the finals. There has been much said about the growth of sports in the country and much of the focus has been on football and its meteoric rise especially since the onset of the Indian Super League. However, basketball which has long been a favourite among the youth has not seen such a boom and it is disheartening so see so little media attention on the UBA. Apart from a few national papers, there was very little media coverage of the games but people who watched the matches in the last  seven weeks or so definitely saw a treat as the level and quality of basketball of the UBA has drastically improved since season one.

Mizoram which has the Mizoram Super League which is the states’ basketball league has a huge popularity in the state and although players from the state are yet to make it into any UBA team, we see so many of the national players playing in the UBA sign to teams in the MSL. This is a huge boost for basketball in Mizoram but the Northeast as a whole is still lagging behind. Watching the matches the last couple of weeks, we see how much is being done to develop the sport with international players who are mostly American make their way to India. Alex Scales of the winning Mumbai Challengers was amazing to watch as also Ronald March. So many new names and with such tremendous skill. There has been criticism that the UBA is more of a platform for foreign players but on looking at Indian players such as Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Palpreet Brar who time and time again perform well, it is evident that the UBA is helping in improving their game. The All Star game which was held last night in Goa was great to watch as the camaraderie of the players, management and everyone a part of the UBA was widely seen. It was laidback and fun and just showcased sportsmanship and goodwill.

Northeast has also seen a growth in basketball with sports organizations organizing tournaments and 3×3 games but the level is still relatively low compared to the rest of the country. We are yet to have a team compete in the UBA and basketball fans across the region will hope the day comes soon enough. The value of sport is shooting up and people understand its importance not just as a way for economic gains but also overall development.

Sports also should not include just organized sport but the unorganized ones also such as adventure sports (for example- caving). The inclusion of such activities in sports policies will only add to their value and also highlight unique features of the states concerned.

Meghalaya will have its first ever Sports Policy and things are looking optimistic as there will be more focus on sport and making sure players are developed in the right way. Focus on grassroots development is a must for long term gain and with people from the state naturally gifted athletically (football, archery…), grooming and developing talent from a young age will only be beneficial for not only the state but the country.  The Northeast is a hot box of talent and with more support (financial) from state governments, it will only get better. Mizoram hold the benchmark for developing young players especially in football, other states should follow suit so as to ensure our young players get the best opportunities to live up to their full potential.

By Jessica Passah — <>

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