|(Top) Sania and Koneru Humpy
Hyderabad, Sept. 10: One is glamorous, cocky, looks and sounds good on TV and is world no. 42 in her sport.
The other, with average looks and excelling in a non-spectator sport, is world no. 6.
The first, tennis ace Sania Mirza, commands the second-highest sponsorship fees in India after Sachin Tendulkar and is on record that she doesn’t need government aid any more.
The second, grandmaster Koneru Humpy, appealed to the Andhra Pradesh government for funds so that she could train for the world chess championships coming up early next year.
So who did the money go to'
Sania, of course.
The Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy government has stunned the state’s sporting circles by rejecting Humpy’s request and presenting Sania a purse of Rs 20 lakh for her performance at the US Open.
It’s the third cheque the teenage star has received from the government in the past three months, giving her a total of Rs 60 lakh, apart from a housing plot, a Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh spokesman said.
The state has also promised to finance her training by a foreign coach and visits abroad to play tournaments though as the spokesman added, Sania has said “she does not need any further assistance, because she has already been promised all help by her corporate sponsors”.
Humpy had met the chief minister and the sports minister to try and impress upon them how much she needed the money.
“Perhaps Humpy has paid for belonging to the Kamma caste, which is seen as being close to the Telugu Desam Party,” a sports official said.
“Sania is treated like a VIP. The government has given her four personal security officers to keep off fans and treats her like a state guest,” said another city sports executive.
The rewards the state government has announced for winners of the recent Asian athletics championships at Incheon, too, have come under criticism. Gold-cum-silver-medallist S. Geeta received Rs 33,000; and bronze-winner Shankar, Rs 23,00.
“They fought against the best athletes from 40 nations; and look how they have been treated,” a sportsperson said.
“Sania is already a millionaire. We are not against her being rewarded. But shouldn’t the government take care of other deserving sportspersons, too'” said a spokesman for the state Olympic association.
“Both Sania and Humpy are daughters of the soil; why differentiate between them,” asked a former hockey Olympian.
As Sania climbed up the endorsement charts, she was applauded for having broken through the cricketers’ monopoly of the sports market and fans’ attention.
Many had hoped it would set the stage for some sort of parity being established between the various sports being played in India.
Tell that to Koneru Humpy.