CHENNAI:THE men’s handball team may have figured in the draw for the Asian Games but it’s still not confirmed whether the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) will clear them. The IOA top brass are unhappy with how the Handball Federation of India (HFI) engineered a spot.
On Wednesday morning, a senior IOA official shot off an angry message to Vinod Tiwari, Olympic Council of Asia’s (OCA) director of International and NOC Relations, enquiring how this had happened. “I’m not happy with the way these backdoor entries are being done by Asian Games Organising Committee.” The IOA official even wanted to speak to Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, OCA president as well as head of the Asian Handball Federation (AHF).
Here’s a quick refresher course on what has happened between the IOA and HFI. The key to all this is Anandeshwar Pandey, IOA treasurer and secretary of HFI. He lobbied for the inclusion of the men’s squad for the Asian Games but his pleas fell on deaf ears as they had not met the selection criteria — finishing in the top eight in international competitions. In the last event, the Asian championships, the side had finished 12th. So, the IOA went by the letter of the law and said nothing doing. That was supposed to be the end of the conversation but the last 48-hours have seen more twists and turns than a Formula One circuit.
Pandey, who reportedly has significant clout with AHF, performed a minor miracle and the Asian body penciled the men’s team in the official draw. AHF even wrote a letter on Tuesday, informing why India was selected. “The team was ranked 12th but as per AHF competition regulations if any team which will not participate in a championship (Asian Games) which they have played to qualify, then the next ranked team automatically take their place. Please note that the teams from Australia, Uzbekistan, China, Oman and UAE are not participating and so the team is now ranked 7th and has qualified.” How convenient? Even ignoring the fact that Australia is not part of the OCA, a side that finished 12th has been presented to look like it has finished 7th to satisfy IOA’s norms.
Pandey said he did what he did ‘because of the players’. “It’s not 100% sure that we will be part of the competition... maybe 99%. The IOA is still the deciding authority. I did lobby the IOA. We are the 7th best seventh best in Asia so I hope they send us,” he said. A clearer picture will emerge within a day or two.
Bridge team cleared
The IOA has cleared the 24-member bridge team (15 men and nine women) for Asiad. “It was done on Tuesday,” Bridge Federation of India chief Prasad Keni said. “It’s the first time that the sport will be a medal event at the Games, so it’s a matter of immense pride.”