SJFI was born in Calcutta
It was on 27 February 1976 that the Sports Journalists’ Federation of India (SJFI) was formed at the Eden Gardens, Calcutta, during the inaugural year of the J.K. Bose Cricket Tournament. The cream of sports scribes from Delhi, Calcutta and Bombay were involved in forming the federation. One year later, Madras joined the federation.
The long-felt need for an all-India body for sports journalists came up for discussion during the tournament. Everybody welcomed the concept and it was decided to form the federation immediately. Apart from those who were participating in the scribes’ cricket tournament, local sports writers and a number of hockey correspondents from all over the country preferred to be present on this historic occasion. These hockey correspondents were on their way home after covering the National Hockey championship in Cuttack.
Two years later, the SJFI became a founder member of the Asian Sports Journalists’ Union and in 1979 the SJFI got affiliated to the World Sports Journalist body, better known as AIPS.
The concept of bringing sports journalists from all over India under one fold was mooted in 1972 during a Duleep Trophy match at the Eden Gardens. R. Sriman, then sports chief of the Times of India, Delhi, Ajoy Bose, a doyen of Bengali commentary and yours truly, as the Secretary of the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club, decided to start a friendly cricket match between sports journalists from Delhi and Calcutta. It was in March 1973, a contingent from Calcutta responded to the invitation of their Delhi colleagues. In 1974, Calcutta hosted the team from Delhi and the succeeding year it was Delhi’s turn again.
The decision to introduce a trophy for the tournament cropped up immediately after the sudden demise of Jayanta Kumar Bose, Chief of Sports, PTI, Delhi. Bose was only 46 when he breathed his last. The previous year Bose had come to Calcutta to cover the World Table Tennis Championship. As a journalist he had everything one could look for by way of credentials. His sincere, unbiased writing flair could be held up as a model. As news of his sudden demise reached Calcutta, we decided to start a tournament in his memory and sports enthusiast Jiten Bose who was a well known figure in the show business donated a trophy.
The triangular contest for the J.K.Bose Trophy in its first year at the historical Test centre was memorable for more than one reason. The Delhi team was led by R. Ramanujan of News Week. The Calcutta contingent was led by Ajoy Bose, sports editor of Jugantar, a Bengali daily. Captaining the Bombay squad was S.K. Sham, then with Free Press Journal. After a tough fight, Calcutta won the tournament and prizes were given by the then Chief Minister of West Bengal Siddhartha Shankar Ray. Being a University Blue, Ray also represented Bengal Veterans against a combined team of the All India Sports Journalists, led by Berry Sarbadhikary.
The time surely had come to form an all India body that would serve to develop and protect the interest of sport journalism. On the third day of the tournament, journalists from three states decided to form an all-India sports journalists’ body with R. Sriman as President and K.R. Wadhwaney, Sports in-charge of Indian Express, Delhi, as Secretary. G. K. Menon of The Times of India, Bombay, took the responsibility of being the Treasurer. I was made the Joint Secretary; Bose and A.T.P. Sarathy were elected Vice-Presidents. Other founder members were S.K. Sham and Santosh Sil of Satyajug. A constitution was drafted by Menon and Sil took the responsibility of designing a logo.
The second year of the J. K. Bose tournament was held in Bombay where Madras also joined the competition. The third edition of the tournament was in Chandigarh in 1978 on behalf of Delhi.
It was in Chandigarh that the A. C. Bali Memorial Table Tennis tournament was introduced. For the first few years, only individual events were held but in 1981 the team competition was added. The trophy was donated by Sushil Bali, then Secretary of the Chandigarh Sports Journalists’ Association, in memory of his father.
During the 1979 J. K. Bose in Madras, a representative from Bangalore sought affiliation to the federation. Bangalore also wanted to field a separate team. By then Chandigarh was affiliated to SJFI and they sent two-three players to be part of the Delhi team. The then executive committee decided that the J. K. Bose would henceforth be played as zonal competition, the broad divisions being North, South, East and West. Thus, J. K. Bose Trophy became a zonal meet in Calcutta in 1984.
In 1984, SJFI took a giant step by accepting the responsibility of distributing media accreditation forms for the Olympic Games. Earlier, any one who knew top IOA officials could get a form. Credit should go to then President Sarathy who fought for the cause of the fraternity. Then IOA President Raja Bhalinder Singh realised the importance of distributing forms to professional journalists only. In 1987, SJFI handled the World Cup cricket accredition. Similar responsibility was given to SJFI during the 1996 cricket World Cup. The Indian leg accreditations were very competently handled by then federation Secretary S. Sabanayakan.
Being deeply involved with the organisation since inception and having worked in different capacities, I will always remember the contributions made by stalwarts such as A.T.P. Sarathy, R. Sriman, K.R.Wadhwaney, Ajoy Bose, T. Govindarajan, P.V. Naidu, T.N. Pillai, P.C. Nigam, S. Sundar Rajan, Samuel Banerji, V. Srivatsa, K.N.K. Menon, Kewal Kausik, Pradip Vijayakar, S. Thyagarajan and Valantine Wilson. Without their cooperation the SJFI would not have grown to what it is today.