Taekwondo is a sport that has been obscured in Goa despite the laurels won by sportspeople, thinks SUSHANT CHIMULKAR
Taekwondo, a Korean martial art, is a martial arts that has found a place in the Olympics and is very popular world over especially in South Asian countries, Europe and US but is yet to find its footing in cricket-crazy India.
“Taekwondo was registered in Goa in 1986. Since then we have participated in all the national championships, national games, west zone championships and others. And I can tell you, today in 2019, if you see the medal tally, taekwondo is the only sport which has won maximum medals for the state of Goa,” informed Raju Mangeshkar, president of Goa Taekwondo Association, who has been at the helm for the last 27 years.
“One of the other features of Goan taekwondo is that it has won medals in all the National Games. And if Goa’s name is there on the list of National Games it is only because of taekwondo,” Mangeshkar said, adding, “When every other much-fancied contingent would return home without a medal, it used to be taekwondo which would fetch a medal or two for Goa.”
Goa will host the National Games in 2020, but Mangeshkar is not hopeful of winning many medals. “There have been hardly any facilities being provided to our athletes to practice. The focus right now has only been on building new infrastructure, but you don’t win medals by having infrastructure. As far as taekwondo is concerned, I am confident of a gold from P Anand, who might quit the sport after the National Games. But he has promised me to win gold and I have full faith in him. I am sure Anand will keep his promise,” avers Mangeshkar.
“In the last two Lusofonia Games held in Portugal and in Goa, it was taekwondo which won the medals for Goa. In the first one held in Portugal, it was only taekwondo that ticked the medal tally while in the second, hosted by Goa, taekwondo too found its place in the medals tally.
“I came to taekwondo in 1992. After taking over as the president of the Taekwondo Association of Goa (TAG) in 1992, I have seen various things in taekwondo. Once upon a time, it was very difficult to organise nationals and other championships. But, in 2002 when late Manohar Parrikar became the chief minister, a lot of things happened. He gave a lot of facilities to the sport. At that time, a grant of `75,000 was given to organise nationals when the total expenses were somewhere around 8-10 lakh. But he revised it to `5 lakh and I still remain grateful to him. Besides he also increased players’ TA/DA allowances and provided the best of the facilities,” says Mangeshkar whilst elaborating on his journey with the sport.
“We hold state championships every year, and from this, the teams in all categories junior, sub-junior, cadets, seniors are selected. Gold medallists in their respective categories are selected to represent the state in the national championship. Once the team is selected, then there are camps, which are mostly of 20-30 days and are conducted before the nationals,” is how Mangeshkar enumerates on the selection process.
“Theophill Lowe is the founder member of the Goa Taekwondo Association. He himself was a very good taekwondo player and represented Goa in many championships besides representing India at various international championships. It was he who took the lead and developed Taekwondo Association of Goa. He took some of his students like Angela Abreau, Oscar Luis and began training state taekwondo players. But it was in 1992 when I took over and put things in order. Subsequently, they were at the fag end of their career. With the help of the government, I put them as coaches. And since they were in the field of taekwondo they could develop taekwondo very well. They trained players like P Anand, Chandan Lakra who later represented the country at the international level,” says the president when asked to comment on who contributed towards the game in Goa.
“As far as Goa is concerned, taekwondo has got a good future because it is the game of the legs. Just like how we Goans are good in football, we are good in taekwondo as well. Taekwondo is a defence by the legs and I think leg movements of the Goans are very fast,” is Mangeshkars titbit on the future of the sport.
“As far as our junior level teams are concerned, we have been in the top bracket for the last 3-4 years. And at senior level, we are in the first 10 categories in India,” he added.
“Unfortunately, there is no money in taekwondo. Only if you win you get a cash prize of `10000 for gold; `7000 for silver and `5000 for bronze. In other states like Haryana, Gujarat, you are assured of a government job if you win a medal for the state. Sadly in Goa, there is hardly any incentive for the sportspersons,” lamented Mangeshkar.
“But that has not stopped our players from taking up taekwondo. They keep coming. One of the reasons why children are taking up taekwondo is that it is also a sport which teaches you defence. To elaborate on this, I can give an example of my daughter Rashmi Naik, who is a medal winner in the National Games and Lusofonia Games. She is presently working for an MNC in Bengaluru and lives there alone, and manages herself only because of her taekwondo background. When you know you have self-defence techniques, you can survive particularly the female cadres,” opines Mangeshkar.
“My request to the government is to please utilise the expertise of these players in coaching the young taekwondo players. Today, P Anand who is a very good taekwondo player but is working in Gujarat as contract coach. He is training Gujarat team. The type of talent our local government should pick. The government should have a conversation with the players,” thinks Mangeshkar.
Ask him about the support that TAG gets from SAG, and he replies, “In the last two years or so the SAG has become very dormant; the bills are not paid in time. But compared to 1992 when I just took over as TAG president, there is a sea of change when it comes to facilities being provided to the players. Now SAG provides lots of facilities to the players like TA/DA, uniform and other facilities. Even the association gets a `1 lakh grant for organising state championship.”
But irrespective of the support from SAG, Mangeshkar says that as the president of TAG he will see to it that the Goa teams will always participate in various national championships and that he will give the players their TA/DA and other facilities.
Mangeshkar is a lawyer by profession and an activist but not an athlete or for that matter a taekwondo player. So it must be interesting to know what keeps him attached to taekwondo with which he has been associated for the last almost three decades.
“In 1992, I was a close neighbour to a taekwondo group comprising Theophill Lowe, Sunil Sharma and others. I was a trade union leader then and they were all my friends. At that time to organise state championship, they required a sum of `40,000. One professor Surlakar was the organising chairman and the group had members like Bhai Naik, son of late Babu Naik and others. Theophill, my good friend, called me for the meeting. I went there and after being introduced, sat in a corner. The meeting started at 5:30 and went up to 6:30. They discussed everything about the championship but could not tell from where the required amount of `40,000 would come. It was at that instance that I lost my temper and told them “gentlemen it is already 7 and you could not decide from where the money would come. If you could permit me I will arrange `40,000 but for now please wind up the meeting. They were all shocked and asked me how I would get the money. I said, that is my lookout; I may be new to you but Theophill knows me, and he too expressed confidence in me. They asked me to become chairman of the organising committee but I said no and that I am doing it for Theophill because he is my good friend. I remember I collected 45 thousand rupees from 5-6 people. I collected `10,000 each from ND Naik, Dempo and Salgaocar and five thousand each from three others. After that, they dissolved the committee and made me the president of the association. That’s how I got in touch with taekwondo.”
“In this journey of mine, I was helped by many not only financially but in other ways also. TAG secretary Deepak Mandrekar has been very supportive all these 27 years. Likewise, there are many others – my friends and well-wishers from the corporate world who have helped me in serving the taekwondo association of Goa.”