Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 26 (IANS) For the past two-odd weeks, former India volleyball captain Tom Joseph's name and picture were splashed in the media in Kerala. This was because his name once again failed to figure in the list of coveted Arjuna Awards, the nation's highest recognition for sportspersons.
The 33-year-old sports officer with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited at Kochi vowed that he will not apply again because he has been "humiliated" to the core.
When the unofficial list first came out with Joseph's name missing , all hell broke loose in the state as right from Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to the man on the street in this sports-loving state cried foul.
A look on the achievements of this tall lanky volleyball player ever since he started playing his favourite game will certainly make any average sports lover wonder whether merit counts when awards are given in this country.
Joseph made his maiden appearance in 1999 as part of the gold medal-winning Indian team at the SAF Games in Kathmandu and in the very next year captained the side that won the Rashid International Volleyball Tournament in Dubai.
He was part of the medal-winning India team at the 2004 and 2006 SAF Games but was dropped from the national team in 2007, only to make a strong return for the 2009 World Cup qualifying round in Tehran.
He was dropped again later that year, but after being named the Best Player in the 2011 Nationals at Raipur, Joseph returned for the country's first Olympic qualification tournament in Germany in June 2012. Even though India did not win any match, Joseph was the cynosure of all eyes in the match against Cuba.
As for his performance for his home state, he was part of the squad that bagged the national titles in 2001, 2011 and 2012.
Joseph, who was visibly upset at being "constantly left out", has gone public saying "enough is enough" and he will never again apply for the award.
"After seeing the public outcry in my favour, I felt I had a slim chance, but it was not to be. I am overwhelmed by the support I received from the fans and I will continue playing the game ," said a dejected Joseph to the media.
"There has always been a strong north Indian lobby that scuttles and plays foul when sports awards are announced," alleged Padmini Selvan, a yesteryears international athlete and chairperson of the Kerala State Sports Council.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)