Teer is a popular sport in Meghalaya, with almost a thousand crores expected to ride on the gambling every year. Archery has also been an integral part of the Khasi tribe, not just as a sport but as a weapon of choice. That’s why it is surprising that there have been very few archers from Meghalaya competing at the national or international stage.
Is archery simply restricted to gambling in the modern days? Or are there some hindrances blocking the path for archers from the state?
A coach of archery with the Department of Sports and Youth Affairs, Government of Meghalaya A R Rymbai said that archery as a tradition is different from archery as a profession. “Yes, the Khasis have been practicing archery as a tradition, but that doesn’t mean that it will smoothly transition into a profession at the national or international level,” he said
Many of those participating in teer did it for leisure and were not keen on taking it up as a profession. The coach said that the Department however, had been trying to encourage more people to become professional archers.
Perhaps, this initiative is bearing fruits. “The junior and sub-junior level archers are shining in national level games, so we might see a more success in the future,” Rymbai said. The coach added that the archers from the state perform well at the national level games and do manage to bring back home at least couple of medals in each edition.
There are more archers in Meghalaya than there are in other states, the coach said, but most of them do not see it as a profession. “The challenge is to improve the popularity of archery as a profession, which can be done with the help of the media,” he said.
Archery is not really popular anywhere across the world, but among the South and South-East Asian countries, the sport is relatively more popular, the coach said. The financial incentives that exist with sports like cricket, football or tennis are not present in archery, which makes it even harder for people to sustain it as a profession.
The facilities provided by the Department of Sports and Youth Affairs are at an intermediary level when compared to the facilities available elsewhere. Issues like the facilities being Shillong-centric, make them harder to access on a regular basis for rural dwellers.
Shaikupar, a regular teer player, said that for him, archery was just a habit and not something he would like to take up as a profession. “We shoot arrows for the sake of it. It is some fun time to spend with your friends. If you get lucky, you win,” he said. Most teer players also feel the same way, he opined, and that is why the efforts of the government have seen only limited success.
Many archers did not favour the ‘professionalization’ of the sport. “It is part of our culture. That is why we take part in it,” said Shaikupar.
I asked him if rural dwellers knew about national and international level archery games, he said that there was only limited knowledge. “We do hear sometimes that someone from Meghalaya has won a medal or an award for archery. I should think that it should happen more often, but maybe most people are satisfied withteer,” he said. Shaikupar also echoed Rymbai’s opinion that archery as a profession was not lucrative.
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