80-90 per cent of our sports talent remains untapped: Leander Paes


Indian tennis stalwart Leander Paes said on Friday that 80 to 90 per cent of the country’s talent remained untapped as the sport remained confined to big cities and metros and added that he had great respect for players like Ankita Raina and Sumit Nagal, who were keeping their dreams alive of playing in big-ticket events despite the huge monetary constraints.

In an interview with IANS on Friday, Paes, the winner of eight men’s doubles and 10 mixed doubles Grand Slam titles, said, “I think that 80-90 percent of our talent is untapped. I say that because most of the tennis and other sports are played in the big cities and the metros. I feel that tier-2, tier-3 cities, and the rural areas are where a lot of our talent is.

“If we look at the seven Olympic medals, we won at Tokyo 2020, so much of our talent comes from rural areas. We would be better off in our country to do talent scouts in multiple different sports and use sports science and sports medicine to really hunt out our talent. The facilities we have in the metro cities, like the Sports Authority of India or Khelo India, can be used to hone our talent and build champions in our country,” said Paes, who announced his association with India’s fastest-growing sports edtech start-up Sporjo as a strategic advisor and ambassador.

Paes said he had a lot of respect for youngsters like Ankita Raina and Sumit Nagal and added that the two could achieve great heights and win laurels for the country and continue his legacy.

“I have tremendous respect for young Ankita Raina and Sumit Nagal. They both work very hard. I have my fingers crossed and prayers for both of them that these two young shining stars can achieve great heights and win laurels for our country and win Grand Slams and continue the legacy that I have started three decades ago,” said Paes.

Paes conceded that tennis was an expensive sport as 99 percent of the tournaments took place outside the country and that’s why he had huge respect for players like Ankita Raina and Sania Mirza who were doing their best to compete at the top level despite the monetary constraints.

“The competition in tennis, especially on the women’s side is very fierce. I am so proud to be in a profession that is the only sport that has equal prize money, equal opportunity, and equal rights. That being said, tennis is quite an expensive game, especially when 99 per cent of the tournaments are outside of our country. Hence, tremendous respect for young Ankita Raina and Sania Mirza and the likes. I feel that international competition hones the skills to play at the top-most level. This is the most important thing for a young female athlete, to be able to play as many tournaments as possible on the international stage and to be able to hone her skills.”

On his association with Sporjo, a sports edtech online platform that focuses on education, training, and employability in the Indian sports industry, Paes said, “In the journey of a career spanning 31 years, I’ve had many learnings and one of my greatest understandings has been that having that right group of skilled professionals by your side to aid your success can make all the difference between winning and becoming a champion.

“The evolution of sports and the refinement of professional athletes over the past few years have created a need for skilled professionals that understand the nuances of the industry. Sporjo is a brand that has identified this and is making strides to equip the entire Indian sporting industry. I personally am very excited to be associated with a brand that is working towards creating an ecosystem of excellence right from the grassroots level. I hope we are able to aid and create an ecosystem that breeds successful individuals in the field of sports across all mediums,” Paes, who will be the strategic advisor and ambassador, Sporjo, said.

The company has raised USD 2 million in a Pre Series A round led by a private investor Punit Balan of Punit Balan Group, in participation with other private investors.

Balan said, “Having backed athletes as well as a few teams over the years, I am aware of the gap that exists in recruiting the right talent. It is also the right time to start educating parents, children, and professionals about the varied careers that exist in the sports industry and providing them with a roadmap backed with an action plan. Sporjo will provide that solution while empowering and building a community of sports professionals.”