Visa, lack of sponsors hold back long jumper Muhammed Anees Yahiya from competing overseas
While Yahiya's top competitors Sreeshankar and Jeswin Aldrin compete abroad, why is he stuck in India? Yahiya talks to The Bridge about the same and more.
Muhammed Anees Yahiya has, hands down, been one of the top performers in the Indian domestic athletics season so far. The 26-year-old long jumper has crossed the 8m mark consistently this year and has put up a tough fight against the country's two premier long jumpers – Murali Sreeshankar and Jeswin Aldrin.
Yahiya started his season with a jump of 8.15m in the India Open Jumps competition where the 2020 Tokyo Olympian bagged the gold with 8.17m. He finished second in the IGP 1 with a jump of 7.70m, where Jeswin Aldrin took the gold with 8.20m.
In the Federation Cup last month, where Sreeshankar and Aldrin went head to head with best jumps of 8.36m and 8.37m respectively, Muhammed Anees Yahiya stood in the third place on the podium with a best of 8.06m.
But while Sreeshankar and Aldrin flew to Europe for competitions earlier this month, Yahiya has been stuck in India.
Just a day before Sreeshankar clinched the 12th International Jumps Meet with a jump of 8.31m and Aldrin finished fifth in the Iberoamerican Meet with a best of 7.69m, Muhammed Anees Yahiya had won the IGP 4 title in Bhubaneswar by equaling his best effort of 8.15m.
So what is holding back Anees in India when his main rivals in the country are competing abroad? Visa and sponsor issues, says the Kerala lad.
"I wanted to compete overseas as well. But, my visa did not come through. I had shortlisted two competitions for 21st May and 29th May, but could not travel. The officials were not satisfied with my whereabouts between those eight days and hence did not grant me the visa," Anees tells The Bridge over a telephonic conversation.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) did try to help him out but it just did not come through, states a dejected Anees.
The 20-year-old Jeswin Aldrin too had faced similar visa issues earlier this month and had expressed his frustration with the same on Twitter. He, however, is now competing in Europe.
How? This is where sponsors come into play, believes Anees.
"I cannot really tell how they (Sreeshankar and Anees) got the visa. I can only assume that it's because both of them have sponsors backing them. I currently don't have any private entity backing me," he says.
So while his domestic rivals compete far away, what is next for Anees?
"Both of them have gone past that World Championships qualifying mark (8.22m) and I want to do the same. They motivate me to push myself better. I badly want to be on that Indian flight to Oregon now," Anees declares.