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Asian Games

Sorry state of Indian sports ahead of 2018 Asian Games

Sorry state of Indian sports ahead of 2018 Asian Games

Sounak Mullick

Published: 19 Jun 2018 3:50 AM GMT
The Indian contingent is gearing up for the upcoming Jakarta Asian Games, but several controversies have plagued the sports fraternity in the build-up and the respective federations are at the epicentre of the events. Out of the several incidents cropping up, the snubbing of the Equestrian team from the upcoming spectacle seems to have hogged the lion’s share of the limelight. Most recently, India’s Sailing coach Ian Stuart Warren resigned from his post owing to the discontent shown towards him by the Sports Authority of India (SAI). India’s football team also faced many a problem but eventually, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) confirmed their participation after much drama and also a request from the senior national team coach Stephen Constantine.

Equestrian fiasco

The Equestrian Federation of India (EFI) had announced a seven-member squad for the Jakarta event on June 3 but overturned the decision and cancelled the selection a couple of days later. The news came as a shock when EFI’s President Lt General Askok Ambre informed the media. The reason given for taking the uncalled decision was that the entire team did not fulfil the required criteria. The official letter by Lt Gen Ashok Ambre read,” In view of the fact that NO rider has met the criteria for any of the team or individual events, that is, eventing, show jumping and dressage, the selection of the team of eventing and jumping stands cancelled.” The EFI is to be blamed for the mess created revolving the concerned discipline, as the Federation had presented the details to the selection committee regarding the eligibility criteria via a PowerPoint presentation. It was after going through these documents that the committee in the presence of the President took a unanimous decision to form a seven-member squad for the Asian Games. The question arises regarding the negligence on the EFI’s part as they had no scope for committing any error. They were aware of the selection criteria; they had all the legal documents and even summoned a probable squad. So how did the confusion happen? Were the documents overlooked? Whatever happened, it was very careless and also disgraceful for the athletes. The Authorities should be more careful in handling matters which involve big ticket events like the Asian Games. It’s not only equestrian; there are also other disciplines which are facing problems. The sad part is that the unfortunate strings of events are happening just a few months before the showpiece event!

Captain leaves the sailors alone

Australian Ian Stuart Warren was furious at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) which gave him much less than promised. So he decided to resign leaving behind the entire Sailing team in a state of shock. The situation was worse cause 29 sailors were about to leave for the Asian Sailing Championships in Jakarta which starts on June 18. Stuart had been at the helm of affairs for 15 months. Interference in coach’s job, poor team selection by the Yachting Association of India and non-payment of his dues were the main reason for stepping down from the post.  “At last count, SAI owed me an approximate figure of $12,000 to 14,000 as dues,” said the coach. In a similar turn of events, Finnish coach who was brought to train sailors in the 49er and 49FX class also resigned due to the non-payment of his salary. On the contrary, the Yachting Federation of India’s general secretary Ajay Narang denied any wrongdoings on their part as admitted that Warren had some personal problems back home and put the blame on the Federation. “Warren was not in good health and having some personal issues back home. He wanted a reason to quit, so he put the blame on the YAI,” said Narang.

Neglecting football is becoming a habit

Dark clouds were looming over Indian U-23 Football team’s participation at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, the government finally decided not to permit the ‘Blue Tigers' for the mega event. Not only that, India’s senior team coach Stephen Constantine had to plead to the send the boys to the Asiad, but still they were not allowed. "We need more games and if the government is listening, send us to the Asian games. It's an U-23 event and we have 11 players in this squad who are below 23. The benefits the players will gain from the Asian Games will be huge," said Constantine. Stephen Constantine has been a pivotal figure in India’s rise in Football in the past few years and will lead the nation to the 2019 AFC Asian Games in the United Arab Emirates.

Gymnasts left in limbo after tussle between IOA and GFI

During the Commonwealth Games and the time leading up to it, fissures in the Gymnastics Federation were clearly apparent. Selection was sketchy and the details not completely prominent. There was controversy surrounding Rakesh Patra who, despite being one of the finalists of the World Cup held a few weeks before, was left out of the squad. Even during the tournament in Gold Coast, Indian gymnasts were penalised for not wearing their country's bib on their uniforms. And now, the ghosts have returned to haunt the hopefuls in Gymnastics for the Asian Games too. While the Gymnastics Federation was granted recognition by the international body for the sport ahead of the Commonwealth Games, it has flexed this authority to conduct Open Trials by way of selecting the contingent for Jakarta. Meanwhile, the Sports Authority of India, acting on behest of the Indian Olympic Association, are conducting trials for 30 chosen gymnasts in Delhi. Who or why were the 30 specifically chosen? No one knows. To add insult to injury, this has not prevented the GFI from going forward with its own selection process.

Badminton Mishap

Veteran shuttler Aparna Balan was not selected as a part of the Badminton contingent and it created much fuss around the people concerned.  As a matter of fact, Aparna decided to take legal action against legendary player Pullela Gopichand and also the Badminton Association of India (BAI). The Writ Petition filed by Balan has directed 5 respondents- The Union of India (Represented by Secretary of MYAS), the BAI, Pullela Gopichand, Gayatri Gopichand and AAkarshi Kashyap. According to her, she “was excluded at the interest of the 3rd Respondent (Pullela Gopichand), who was part of the Selection Committee, in order to include 3rd Respondent’s daughter into the team.” Aparna Balan and her Women’s doubles partner Shruti KP won the title in the selection trials in Hyderabad and the semi-finals in Bengaluru respectively which made them an automatic choice for the games. But Gayatri Gopichand was summoned who made it to the quarter-finals in one of the selections while the semi-finals in the other.

Shooting Episode

Eyes brows were also raised after the shooting contingent was selected for the Asian Games as many big names were left from the final list. Experienced campaigners like Gagan Narang and Jitu Rai did not make a cut to Jakarta while young Mehuli Ghosh who impressed at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was also overlooked. Even Heena Sidhu was furious with the selection policy of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) after she was not included for the 25m individual and 10m mixed air pistol event.

Boxing Blunder

Sachin Siwach and Nikhat Zareen were the scapegoats in the Boxing section where they were denied a green signal for the Asian Games in spite of having enough capability to make it through. After giving their best in the national camps, both the pugilists were barred from taking part in the trials. Both the concerned persons wrote a letter to the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) requesting them to give them a chance to perform in the trials but the governing body seems to have turned them a deaf ear. Siwach impressed in the World Youth Boxing Championships while Nikhat won a Gold medal during the meet.

Sailors' woes continues

Varsha Gautham, who has been a mainstay for India in Sailing and also performed consistently, was surprised to discover that she would not be boarding the flight to Jakarta in August later this year. Recently, Varsha along with her partner Sweta Shervegar was part of the Asian Sailing Championships held in Jakarta and even won the Silver medal in the 49er FX category. As per the selection committee, the achievements at the Sailing Championships did not matter because an Annual General Meeting within the top-brass of the YAI had decided that the tournament in Jakarta did not count.
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