Asian Games medal winner Fouaad Mirza on Thursday called for financial help in popularising equestrian in India, saying the government can take a cue from European nations such as the United Kingdom and Germany. Mirza recently became the first Indian to win an Asian Games individual medal in the equestrian event since 1982 besides guiding the country to a second-place finish in the team competition in Indonesia.
Mirza bagged silver in individual jumping with a score of 26.40. “It would be interesting to look into the programmes of countries like UK, Germany, Japan and Thailand, to see if we can also come up with a system to support and help equestrian sport grow in India,” Mirza told PTI in an interview in Bengaluru.
“These governments provide financial aid to the sport and equine athletes. Our government should adopt this system as the sport is expensive. It needs lots of money to maintain a horse and matters concerning logistics,” he added.
Mirza was felicitated by Embassy Group chairman and managing director Jitu Virwani at an event. Fouaad, who has been training under German Olympian Bettina Hoy, topped the dressage and cross-country qualifiers with a score of 22.40 and went into the jumping finals as a favourite.
Replying to a query, Mirza said quarantine regulations makes the sport even more expensive, and it becomes difficult for equestrian enthusiasts to get horses into India. “Therefore, to tide over this problem, people like Mr Jitu Virwani, who is the Chairman of Embassy Group, should chip in. I am very grateful to Mr Jitu for supporting me to get horses and cater to sundry other requirements to train. We have eight horses imported at the Embassy Inetrnational Riding School,” he added.
Mirza said more and more equestrian competitions should be conducted to popularise the sport in India. “The equine athletes are fortunate to have many equestrian competitions, especially the Equestrian Premier League, which which provides a platform for beginners and also professionals,” he said.
Virwani said Army control over equestrian federation in India is tight and it needs to be replaced with experts, who are well-versed in the sport. “Serving army officials should be off the federation, instead experts and knowledgeable civilians, should run it. Unfortunately, there is much of politics in the federation and country takes a back seat,” he said.
Asked if he wishes to contest the federation election, Virwani said only if the Army wishes him to do so. “However, I will not advise Fouaad to contest election because training takes a lot of time and needs focus. I will contest only if the Army wants me to do,” he said.