Mustafa Ghouse has been there. As a former tennis player and Asian Games bronze medallist, the JSW Sports CEO knows that an athlete forced to sit still is a restless creature who might just start gnawing on the furniture at home. Ghouse therefore welcomes the restart of sporting action internationally and within India.
“You can’t keep athletes quiet at home for too long. Everyone gets antsy and they want to get out and train and compete,” Ghouse told Moneycontrol on October 9.
“In our interactions with our athletes, they have had some apprehension about the virus, but we have testing protocols and ensure we follow the SOPs. Once they were assured of their safety, they were happy to be back at the training base (in Vijayanagar, Karnataka). In any case, our training program and facility were operational throughout, save for the period of complete lockdown.”
JSW Sports are part owners of IPL side Delhi Capitals. They are also founders of the Bengaluru FC football team, which will participate in the ISL (Indian Super League), scheduled to be held from November to March in Goa. In addition, JSW Sports manages some Indian athletes who are preparing for the Tokyo Olympics next year.
Understandably, Ghouse has been busy. He recently returned to Mumbai after spending a few days at the IPL in the UAE. Among other things, he picked up pointers about bio-bubbles and SOPs that would be handy for the company when they mentor athletes for upcoming events.
“I think their (IPL) bio bubble and SOPs were extensive,” Ghouse said. “The ISL shared their SOPs with us too. Adding to that we did our own homework with regard to how the Premier League, Bundesliga, or the NBA went about things. We have a close equation with Glasgow Rangers in Scotland, so there was a lot of interaction with their team as well. It was good to see global sport start before we started so we could understand what they were doing.”
IPL preparations lasted nearly two months at the Delhi Capitals, who are second in the points table currently. “Once the IPL dates were announced, there was extensive prep work over six to eight weeks prior to the team leaving,” Ghouse said. “It was quite hectic, as it was a whole new construct, with the bio-bubble and different location. There were a lot of challenges around that.”
Next up for JSW Sports is the ISL, for which teams have started assembling in Goa. And then there are the Olympics next year in Tokyo.
“The prep work for the football season is on,” said Ghouse. “The Indian boys in the squad have already reported. There’s a big Spanish contingent that is arriving tonight (October 9/10). They will be in 14 days quarantine and then join the squad.”
The lockdown and cancellations were especially hard on Olympians, as the Games are a quadrennial event. Four years of preparation and stored up adrenalin had to be kept in cold storage as Tokyo 2020 became Tokyo 2021.
“It was a huge mindspace change for them (Olympians),” agreed Ghouse. “Initially we counselled them that it was a global issue and everyone was going through it. They have processed that. All we know now is July 23, 2021, is when the Olympics start. Vikas (Krishan Yadav, boxer) has gone to the US (for an exposure trip). Some other camps are starting or have been held (such as wrestling). We are happy that things are opening up. The IPL starting was very important for sports in India.”