V. Ramkumar (name changed), who was a district-level football champion when at school, joined Presidency College three years ago.

He believed that the college, one of the oldest government colleges in the State, would have excellent facilities for the game and regular practice sessions. But to date, he has not even put on his football shoes.

“I was known as someone who would score not less than seven goals in a match,” he said.  Son of a daily wage labourer, Ramkumar, who got into the college through the sports quota, says he would have been better off at a private or a government-aided college.

Presidency College, like most government colleges, has minimal sports activities – only kabaddi, kho kho, hockey and handball. And most students say the facilities here are much better than those in other government colleges. Presidency at least has a physical education teacher and free coaching is imparted to athletes and handball players, a student said. 

Thirty five of the 59 government colleges in the State don’t have physical education teachers or a teacher dedicated to sports. Playgrounds at many have garbage strewn around or are perpetually filled with stagnant rainwater.

“None of the colleges have sports markers or ground assistants. There is no one to mark the ground or get it ready for a game. Physical education as a degree is offered in just two institutions in the city, which makes it difficult to get PT teachers,” said a professor at a government college.

Students of government colleges say they are not encouraged to participate in sports activities as there is often no designated period, trainer or even sports equipment. “Those who are interested have to come early in the morning to practise but since many of us come from the suburbs or nearby villages, this is not possible every day,” said a student of Government Arts College, Nandanam.

At most government-aided and private colleges, students who excel in sports get sports kits, shoes, concessions in attendance and grades, free food during practice every day and free lodging to enable everyday practise.

“But at government colleges, the only concession you get if you excel in sports is consideration for police jobs. Even for that he should have represented the university at the national level, which is rare. Not many students are inclined to take up sports,” says a physical trainer at a city college.

Most of these students do not participate in inter college competitions either, most of which are held outside the city or State. “Every government college participant gets only Rs 125 as transport and food allowance which is hardly sufficient. The amount is at least Rs 250 when it comes to government-aided colleges," says a professor at Queen Mary's College. 

Many government women’s colleges do not even have playgrounds, and for years, have been petitioning for indoor stadiums. At Quaid-E-Millath College for Women for instance, despite sanction from the University Grants Commission two years ago, work on the indoor stadium has only now begun.

“Over the last 15 years, we have been the best in the city in women’s kabaddi. But when it comes to football and cricket, we are not even in the picture,” says a teacher at Queen Mary’s College.

There is absolutely no procurement of sports equipment at the beginning of the year, a procedure followed strictly in colleges such as Loyola or Madras Christian College which have winning sports teams, she added.

“The problems in government colleges are so grave — shortage of teachers, student violence and leaking ceilings — that the lack of sports facilities does not seem to be the priority here,” said the principal of a government college.

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