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FCI’s monthly sports stipends put on hold

CHENNAI: The Food Corporation of India (FCI) not only ensures supply of food at a proper price, it also promotes sports by offering monthly stipends to young talent across the country. The emphasis is usually on rural and backward areas. But with COVID-19  causing havoc, the FCI’s sports scholarship scheme has been put on hold.

“The FCI has been giving stipends to deserving sportsmen for several years. Last year, about 150 athletes benefitted from the initiative. This year due to the lockdown, we are yet to put up the advertisement inviting applications for scholarship. We will do it shortly, after the lockdown is lifted,” said former athlete Shiny Wilson, who is the general

manager (Sports & PR) of FCI, South Zone.The FCI’s sports-related activities cover different zones. Athletes from Andhra, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar and Puducherry come under South Zone.

“Sportsmen in the age groups of 15-18 and 18-24, who may or may not be students, especially those from backward rural areas are eligible to apply. The stipend is `8000 to `15,000 per month depending on age and achievement in the previous year,” added the former Olympian.

Cricketers in general are perceived to be rich and do not get scholarships from government  bodies. But FCI awards them. “Football, hockey, cricket (for boys), table tennis, badminton, weightlifting, athletics (boys & girls) are the sports we consider for stipends. Those who got it last year, did well and are eligible, will have them renewed,” said Shiny, who specialised in 400m and 800m in her younger days.

The former Asian Games gold medallist in 4x400m relay and winner of the Asian Championship in 800m has never had so much time to spend with her near ones. “I am using this period to spend time with my family. My grandson keeps me occupied. I do a bit of exercise on the balcony, watch movies. I also chat with friends,” said Shiny.

The four-time Olympian welcomes the move to have the Olympics next year. But she cautions that athletes should not take the break lightly.  “It was a sensible decision to move the Olympics to next year. It provides time for those who have qualified to work on their game physically and mentally. But for those who have not qualified and are looking to qualify, it will be difficult to go through the grind again. It will be difficult for many athletes to start the whole process again from scratch.”

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