While the country has been glued to the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL), many athletes from sports other than cricket are left sidelined. Diana Ningombam, an international taekwondo player from Manipur, has been selling fruit salads on the streets of Imphal to raise funds for her upcoming tournaments.
Ningombam started learning Taekwondo in 2006 and has reportedly won 15 medals at the national level as well as in international events, including a silver in Kukkiwon, South Korea in 2018. She wakes up daily at 3 AM to make preparations and sells fruit salads from 4 AM to 7 AM. She then goes on to practice in the evening at Langjing Achouba Makha Leikai, a local sports complex, where she has been preparing for an upcoming tournament which will be held in Hong Kong.
She says she did not want to burden her parents for the expenditure on her diet and training equipment. While her father works as a printing machine mechanic and has not been keeping healthy, her mother works at a bazaar to earn extra income. Ningombam says she wants to encourage the youth towards self-employment and not be dependant on their parents. She told The Bridge,
“I wanted to set an example that we shouldn’t be dependent on others for our jobs. All of us can do the work and earn the money whenever we need. Though I’m a player, I think I too can do the same. That’s the reason why I started to sell fruit salads.”
I am with Diana Ningombam now at Kangla park. She is busy preparing fruit salads to the passerby. Let us support her. pic.twitter.com/j8XsT6coUm
— Chowkidar Naorem Mohen (@laimacha) April 28, 2019
A former member of All Manipur Taekwondo Association, Ningombam told IFP how difficult it is for entrants, who come from poor families, to gather funds to be able to take part in international tournaments.
“When I first stepped into sports, we required money to buy only sports tracksuits but players now have to manage their own transportation fees which is really hard for players belonging from poor family backgrounds.”
She says she earns between Rs 300-400 daily from her small business and has been receiving encouragement from customers and passersby ever since a picture of her cutting fruits on her stand went viral. She further told IFP,
“Almost all of my customers encourage me, there are also some who give me more than the actual price of the salad as an act of encouragement and support.”
According to All Manipur Taekwondo Association, as Ningombam is not a member anymore, the association cannot take care of her expenses during international tours.
Here’s how people reacted to her viral picture on social media:
Sportsperson of disciplines, other than cricket has to face a lot of financial hurdles. Even if the sportsperson is of international calibre, he/she has no recognition. After they cross the playing age, they are left to hand to mouth existence.
— BhuYan (@nbhuyan9) April 27, 2019
Crowd funding can be done through a campaign on SM. Pl initiate. I’m sure many people will come forward with contributions.
— Vijaya Kumar Dar (@vijayadar) April 27, 2019
— Tarun (@Tarun07287630) April 27, 2019
Case shud be filed against local sports authority who gets funds to take care of athletes. Every sport in which India participate in international event gets some fund. In taikwondo we don’t hv much players & she must get her due. Am I correct sir @Ra_THORe ?
— AB (@iamamit74) April 28, 2019
Very sad…that our beloved olympic athlete..has to sell Fruit salad…..that shows the reality of what the current BJP goverment…is doing jumlebaazi.. wah re achche din
a statue worth 3000 crore can be made but a Olympic player can’t get and a job from Modi govt? shame
— Vijayment ツ (@vijayment) April 28, 2019