Sport and politics should not be mixed in an ideal world but in reality it can't happen in certain cases, feels champion shooter Abhinav Bindra amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of Uri terror attack.
"At the end of the day, it is the decision of the government. It takes the final call on whether a team can play (against Pakistan) and that call has to be respected," Bindra told PTI today.
So does he feel that politics and sport should be kept separate?
"It is a very difficult question. One would hope for that to happen (that sport and politics is not mixed). It is a nice thought it should be separated because that is the Olympic values as well that sport should be free from politics. But today, in reality, it doesn't happen sometimes. One has to take a call from situation to situation and the government's decision has to be respected," said India's only individual Olympic gold medallist.
The Indian government has stepped up its efforts to isolate Pakistan globally on all fronts post the Uri attack and it has also impacted the sporting ties between the two neighbours with the BCCI outrightly ruling out resumption of cricketing ties and Pakistan's Kabaddi team not taking part in the ongoing World Cup in Ahmedabad.
Bindra, here for the Franchise India Expo, also spoke about his life post Rio Olympics in August, when he ended his glorious career with a fourth place finish.
The 34-year-old has not touched the rifle since the 10m Air Rifle Final in August. He is busy trying to earn a living, as he often puts it these days, and is excited about his business venture of micro high performance centres across India.
The first centre, that helps athletes prepare for mental and physical aspect of their sport, was opened in Mohali earlier in the month.
Is he liking his post retirement life and does he intend to 'hobby shoot' once in a while?
"I was already a hobby shooter the last five years so no more of that. I am quite busy actually, trying to earn a living. I go to work every day, it is a different life but it is fine. I like it," said Bindra.
He has been openly critical about issues plaguing Indian sports. In a column analysing India's dismal performance in Rio, he had suggested drastic steps for the nation to become a sporting power.
Not much is known about how India plans to prepare for the future Summer Games other than the announcement of a task-force for the next three Olympics. Bindra is open to being part of the task-force though he is yet to be approached for the job.
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"It is a tough question for me now (where does India stand right now). Simply because I am not involved in sport anymore on a daily basis. When I was an active athlete, I would see it from a different eye. I was more into it. Since Rio, I am not an athlete anymore so I don't know what exactly is happening on the ground," Bindra said.
"It will be unfair of me to comment on it and I can only hope that there is a lot of action happening. That we are progressing towards athlete development, towards not just Tokyo 2020 but we must already look at 2024 and beyond, set structures and processes in place which would create a feeder line of athletes," he said.
He was very clear that Indian sport won't improve unless a legislation is passed in the parliament.
"I have said this before. In India for things to change, the change will have to be mandated. Unfortunately nobody likes change, there is a lot of resistance to change. But change is necessary. I think in the structure of sport in India, if it is mandated, that is the only way forward. For that to happen, a legislation in sport is important," he said referring to the proposed Sports Bill.
Asked whether the Sports Bill will be a reality anytime soon? "I am not in charge of that so I can't say (when it will happen). I can only take a guess and it would be no," Bindra said on a lighter note.
Drawing a parallel from the current happenings in Indian cricket, which could change forever if the Lodha panel's recommendations on the governance of the game are implemented, Bindra was asked if Supreme Court intervention would also help streamline other sports bodies.
"At the end of the day, you have got to have the right person for the right job. If a politician can bring an X amount to the table and do well for the sport, he is more than welcome in my view. Running sport is a full time job, it requires a lot of effort, it requires an efficient set up. If a politician can deliver (on all fronts), more power to him. It all boils down to efficiency, performance and accountability," he concluded.