Wrestling fraternity is upbeat about Wrestling Federations of India’s historical initiative to offer “central contracts” to its players. The proposal has received overwhelming support and accolades. This is part the vast WFI revamp programme for a 360° growth of the sport.
About 150 Indian wrestlers – ranging from top rung Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat to under-23 and under-15 talent – are set to get financial security by way of the annual contracts. The decision got a stamp of approval on Tuesday from all stake holders – the WFI, the wrestlers represented by 15 leading names like Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt, Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Pooja Dhanda, Divya Kakran and the WFI commercial partners Sporty Solutionz.
Sushil and Bajrang, while giving their nod for the programme, appreciated WFI’s landmark initiative. “It is a welcome step for the growth of wrestling in our country. I am delighted that even the junior wrestlers will be able to reap the benefits now. It would be a huge boost,” said double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar.
“The Wrestlers will feel more secured now and the game will reach the next level. I am excited to be a part of this change,” added Bajrang, India’s biggest hope for a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The contracts, in addition to the financial security, will also ensure comprehensive insurance protection to the contracted wrestlers. The players will be able to pursue their careers like a professional in any other field. “Now, the Junior Wrestlers will be more independent financially and that will motivate them to give their best from an early age. I believe this push was required to take the game to the next level,” said Vinesh Phogat.
Just back from the UWW World Championship with a medal, Pooja Dhanda believes the move will inspire and enable the wrestlers to focus on their game. “It is a massive opportunity for all the Indian Wrestlers as there will be more exposure and incentives for grapplers of all age groups. We will not be worried about our rehabilitation and diet and that’s a big relief,” said Pooja.
WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has assured the players that the contracts are just one aspects of federation’s grand plans to restructure the sport for the sustained growth, driven by a system. “We will create a robust plan for nationals and domestic tournaments through this overhauling along with our grassroots programmes being given special focus to identify and nurture future talents for the 2024 Olympics,” the WFI chief assured the wrestlers.
“With players also getting incentives at all levels, I am confident the move will motivate the wrestlers to do well and perform better than before.”
WFI will become the first national sports federation in the country – other than the Board of Control for Cricket in India – to provide professional contracts to its players. The move will go a long way in making wrestling an aspirational, career option.