CHENNAI: An association torn between two factions, a national team struggling for matches and steadily slipping down the rankings and players who don’t know who to turn to. The last couple of years have seen Indian volleyball languishing in darkness. And it shows no signs of abiding.
It’s no secret that the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) has been subject to a tug of war between president Chaudhary Avdhesh Kumar and secretary Ramavtar Singh Jakhar. In December, the international body FIVB suspended India and constituted an ad-hoc commission to investigate how the sport is run in the country.
Then, the Jakhar faction obtained a verdict from Delhi High Court, upholding elections they had held in April 2016 for all posts, except the president’s. But now, FIVB has asked VFI to conduct fresh elections in July, failing which their suspension would continue.
In a letter dated May 11, a copy of which is with Express, the FIVB terms the 2016 elections as merely ‘provisional’. “It is the FIVB’s understanding that the election results released on 27 April 2017 merely dealt with provisional elections conducted by the Volleyball Federation of India led by Mr Singh Jakhar designed to fill positions until the conclusion of the office bearers’ terms in 2017.
Additionally, the determination of the President is still pending. Consequently, elections must be conducted in 2017,” the letter says.
FIVB also threatened to not lift India’s suspension, unless their conditions were met. “Elections should be conducted in July 2017 to determine the office bearers of the VFI for the 2017-2021 term. The procedures for this election shall be conducted in accordance with terms agreed upon by the parties with a duly-appointed FIVB representative.
The FIVB will not lift the provisional suspension until after the elections are conducted in July 2017. FIVB shall enter teams from India to participate under the FIVB flag in accordance with Article 16.2 of the FIVB disciplinary regulations until the suspension of the VFI is lifted,” the letter says.
However chances of VFI following this diktat and holding elections appear dim. Jakhar told Express that holding another set of elections would be tantamount to contempt of court. “We are all citizens of India and have to abide by the law of the land. Our election results have been approved by the Delhi High Court. So I don’t know how FIVB can come and tell us to disregard that. It is a difficult situation for us and I am consulting lawyers.”
In the middle of all this, the game has been on a steady decline. It was not so long ago that India were ranked in the 20s. But a lack of matches has seen it drop down to 42nd in the world. And now an extension of FIVB’s ban is putting participation in 2018 Asian Games at risk, an event in which India had finished fifth in 2014.
“It is really sad, what’s going on,” said former India captain and Arjuna awardee Tom Joseph. “Not so long ago, the future of Indian volley looked bright and we even came within a shout of qualifying for the Olympics. But now the future of world class players like Ukkrapandian is going to be wasted.”