When the Commonwealth Games players returned home on Tuesday a hero’s welcome awaited only a few – P Kashyap, Guru Saidutt and PV Sindhu.
They then headed to the city’s badminton academy to meet well-wishers. However, CWG silver medalist, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, were not part of this welcome. And Jwala Gutta made no bones of it. Lashing out at chief national coach, P Gopichand, Jwala said, “We were not even informed about it while he (Gopichand) is supposed to be our chief national coach. He is supposed to include all, and not just a few of his favourites,” said Jwala. But the shuttler says she knows she wouldn’t be ‘invited’ to the (proverbial) party. “This is something I have gotten used to. It was evident that we wouldn’t be called there. Things have become so bitter that perhaps, even if we were invited, we wouldn’t have gone.”
The divide in Hyderabad’s badminton camp was evident on Wednesday, when Telangana chief minister Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao met the winner. It was there that Jwala spoke up and said her coach is “SM Arif sir, and not Gopichand”. “Everybody was talking, and I had to wait my turn. When I did manage to get a few minutes, I said, ‘I am sorry to interrupt you Sir (KCR), but I want to tell you that Arif Sir is my coach’. KCR Sir smiled and nodded, while another gentleman in the room told him that Arif Sir has been Gopi’s coach too. Well, all Gopi did was smile,” said Jwala about the incident. After Jwala did what she did, an announcement of ’50 lakh was also made for Arif’. “Arif Sir was not invited to the meet at the CM’s office, but I wanted to tell everybody that Arif Sir is my coach and I am proud of it.”
In an exclusive chat, Jwala lashed out at chief national coach Pullela Gopichand.
‘JWALA-ASHWINI PLAYED WELL’ – THAT’S NEVER HEARD FROM THE CHIEF NATIONAL COACH
Badminton did not grow or become as popular as it is right now because of a few. There are five-six players including those from the doubles who are performing at the highest level. This is one of the reasons why badminton is popular, why IBL came to India.
It’s because of our achievements.
What we expect is a little acknowledgement. ‘Jwala-Ashwini played well’ – that is never heard. After Olympics too, there was not even a word of appreciation from the national coach, who is supposed to be the coach for all the players and not just a few.
THE FUTURE PLAYERS ARE ALREADY SUFFERING
There are players who suffer.
And I know they will never be able to speak out. I am at a place where I can speak because I have medals to show what I am capable of. People think I only complain, but I cannot do anything other than speak the truth. The biggest proof of discrimination between singles and doubles players is the fact that we came back with no medals in the team event. If people are still trying to overlook this and pretend to be blind, I can’t really help it, unless I get into a stronger position like getting into the association.
THERE WAS NO PLANNING
The planning for the CWG was bad. Instead of taking a mixed doubles player, you take three singles in men and three singles in women and ask them to play together. That’s a problem. What I am trying to say is, if we are talking about the growth of badminton… in 2010, we won the silver medal in team’s event, were we not supposed to aim at gold this time?
IF WE DON’T GIVE GOPICHAND CREDIT, WE ARE FINISHED!
Ashwini wasn’t allowed to play singles. Nobody should have stopped her, but it did happen. A lot has been happening. This is what I have been talking about and I want people to know. You talk about comparing yourself with the system in China, where the players are supported by the association and the government.
But in India, a player has to bear his/her own cost. Nobody encourages us, we are literally fighting a lone battle and then, after we have achieved something, suddenly somebody comes and wants to take away the credit. And if we don’t give credit, we are finished! I was World No. 6 in mixed doubles. If not me, why don’t you have a back-up mixed doubles team if you are so confident about your coaching, and your schemes and your system? Even now, there is nobody to play women’s doubles apart from Ashwini and me. And you still did not support me; the coach was ready to forego a medal by letting me get banned. He didn’t speak a word for me… No, you don’t care about the country or players. You care only about yourself. You don’t care whether we got a medal or not. Bas tumhara naam aa jaye, tumhe credit mil jaaye, tumhe sab paise waise mil jaaye, tum khush ho, tumhara academy chale, tumhara position bana rahe, you will be happy.
I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO KNOW FROM GOPI WHO WAS HIS COACH
I have never heard Gopi saying Arif Sir was his coach. Why do you shy away from saying that you have trained under Arif Sir?
In fact, all these players who have come back with medals, their base has been developed under Arif Sir. It was only in 2006-07, that they shifted to Gopi.
I HAVE NEVER ASKED FOR ANY MONEY
If I was playing badminton for money, I would have been the biggest fool. Badminton does not pay. I never ask for money or remuneration. And I have learned it all from Arif Sir.
Till date, I have never paid Arif Sir a dime. I have learned badminton from him for free. He doesn’t charge anybody. He just gets his pension. It’s been 10 years that he has retired, but he still hasn’t charged anybody. The Sports Authority of Andhra wanted to pay him, but he told them, ‘Don’t give me money. Instead, convert that money into shuttles and give my children that’.
THERE’S LOTS OF JEALOUSY
I have no idea why there is a divide in the team. I have always wished all the players well.
When Guru (Gurusai Dutt) was playing, I screamed my lungs out to support him. I was happy for Kashyap. So, I don’t really know why there is so much jealousy and bitterness.
PLAYERS ARE THREATENED DIRECTLY
There is no indirect threat.
There are only direct threats to players. Nobody else outside Gopi’s academy is allowed to play or perform. I am not sure what he or anybody else wants.
HE HOLDS MONOPOLY
If a person holds many posts and is in control of everything, it is monopoly. You are the chief coach who is running a private academy, you are also the association secretary, national selector and governing council member in IBL. Have you ever heard of a chief coach being an office bearer in an association?
Gopi is the secretary in Telangana Badminton Association. Things are going wrong in every way possible because one person has so much power and control.
I HAVE BEEN MENTALLY HARASSED FOR YEARS
Whatever I went through, anybody in my place would have not only given up badminton, but also given up on life. I have been harassed mentally. V Diju (my mixed doubles partner) was not allowed to play with me (2006). He was threatened. He will never say it, but I am. He was stopped from playing because I was not attending national camps held at the academy, which Gopi wanted. I, on the other hand, wanted to play tournaments and get ranking to qualify for the Olympics. And I couldn’t play in that Olympics.
EVERYONE IS FREE TO HAVE AN OPINION AND IT DOES NOT BOTHER ME: P GOPICHAND
Reacting to the allegations,
chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand, says, “If anyone is saying anything, let them, because it is their opinion. Everyone is free to have an opinion and it does not bother me at all. And even if I had something to say , it won’t change their opinions. So, let anyone say anything. And it does not bother me.”
(source: The Times of India)