Indian government should care about its sports stars: NBA's Satnam Singh

He is the first Indian to turn out in the elite US National Basketball Association (NBA) league and has represented the country in foreign shores. But there is one thing that Satnam Singh Bhamara rues – no one from the Indian government ever called him to appreciate his work or congratulate him for his achievements.

He said there’s a need for the Indian government to provide monetary help for building sports infrastructure in the country.

“The government needs to think about them (the country’s sportspersons) or else they will think there is no life in India. Talking about supporting and motivating talent in the country, the government or any minister from India has never called to appreciate my work,” Bhamara, who plays for the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League, told IANS in an email interview from Dallas.

“I have played with so many players in India, none of them ever called or sent a text to appreciate or congratulate me for my work. It is about the respect for the game and not about anything else. I want other players to promote the game in India as much as they can to get the attention it receives abroad in India,” he added.

The 7’2” tall Bhamara, who hails from Barnala in Punjab, created history in 2015 by becoming the first Indian to get drafted into an NBA side.

A documentary titled One in a Billion chronicles his journey to become the first Indian-born basketball player drafted into NBA.

Bhamara feels the government should provide monetary help for sports infrastructure and promote the game in India. “I will continue to do my bit for promoting sports in India but the government’s support will be an added benefit. It should work towards providing better opportunities to kids,” he said.

Hailing from a small village, Bhamara had to go through much turbulence, like the language barrier, to make a name for himself in the sport.

Looking back at his journey from Barnala to Texas, Bhamara said, “I faced a lot of difficulties initially, especially in terms of studies. When I was in India, I didn’t know the importance of studies. I used to go to the farm with my father or used to play. When I got a scholarship and came to the US, I understood how important studies are. I saw players giving interviews and interacting with the coaches in English. Coming here from Punjab, I had to study English from scratch. I was lucky enough to receive help from coaches and teachers.”

But he has not forgotten his desi roots. Bhamara hopes to open a basketball academy in India, and wants Indian children to master the English language.