Tussle in Taekwondo


Just as he completed a year at office, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai was awarded ninth dan (black belt) in Taekwondo, by National Taekwondo Union.

Although the award was honorary in nature, this piece of information might sound as if Taekwondo, as a sport, is likely get a shot in arm and develop as it was expected a decade ago. But on the contrary, the nature and objective of program where this award was announced would get one worried for the sport.

This was the program where National Taekwondo Union (NTU) announced that it had now been recognized as a separate national association from World Taekwondo Headquarters, Kukkiwon. This becomes interesting because we already had National Taekwondo Association (NTA), running the game for World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) related activities.
General Secretary of Union, Raj Kumar Karki, announced at the program that there were two official associations for the same game from now on, adding that Kukkiwon took Nepal as a special case, while giving official status.

Kukkiwon, established by South Korean government, is the centre of taekwondo instructor education, being the home of the World Taekwondo Academy, and issues official instructor and dan and poom or pum (junior black belt, for Under-16) certifications. According to the (WTF) rules, taekwondo competitors seeking entry into WTF-sanctioned events must hold black belt rank from Kukkiwon.

The officials of the Union also announced that from now on, they also hold the authority to send players in WTF-sanctioned events, while maintaining that they would co-ordinate with National Taekwondo Association (NTA). The announcement of the Union is sure to hamper the sport – which has won Nepal more laurels than any other at the international level – more than helping it.

If we try to reflect upon it, we might recollect that NTU was registered at National Sports Council only a year ago, as a parallel to organization to NTA. It would be worth noting that the registration had a political push to it, from the party of the present Prime Minister. It is said that the Member Secretary of Sports Council, Yubaraj Lama – who himself was a party nominee for the post he is in – was instrumental in the registration of the Union.

We might as well remember former Member Secretary of the Sports Council, Jiwan Ram Shrestha – during his tenure – had allowed registration of parallel football association to ANFA, in the name of Nepal Football Association. For around three years, as long as Nepal Football Association existed, development of the game took a back seat and the national football league was not held for 3 years. Now that is a good example of what disturbance in any sport does to you.

A nation can’t run by two parallel governments. Neither can a sport run by parallel governing bodies. As long as parallel bodies exist, it brings in a whole lot of confusion. As the famous saying goes: everybody’s work is nobody’s work. In such a situation, the governing bodies busy themselves in accusing each other. They hardly get time to focus on the game’s development, which is the primary task they should be doing. It becomes worse for players, as they do not know which body to follow and whom to ignore.

The NTA has said that it doesn’t give much importance to the claims of the Union. But its officials do not reject that there will be no effect of the latest developments. They go to the extent of saying, ‘the players, who understand the game, will remain with us’. It is clear that the tussle to gather more and more players on their sides – by both the bodies – will strain the players. How many players would we lose to this conflict, only time will tell. We might just remember that Taekwondo is the sport that has earned Nepal the lone silver medal at Asiad, when Sabita Rajbhandari got it in Bangkok, 1998. We don’t know how many Sabita Rajbhandaris in-the-making we might lose now.

Yubaraj Lama, after being appointed the Member Secretary, had said that he would stop politicization of sports. He was awarded honorary 8th dan as well by NTU. 6th to 9th dan are also called Grandmaster. It would be good if Lama remembers that a Grandmaster is also patron for the game and should be responsible enough to protect it.

(PS: This write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 1st September, 2012)

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