CHENNAI: THE top brass of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is set to meet with the sports ministry on Wednesday following a letter that was sent to all National Federations (NFs) by United World Wrestling (UWW), the governing body for the sport. In the letter, UWW had asked all NFs to immediately put an end to all communication with WFI. UWW took the step as it felt the country had gone against the Olympic Charter when it denied visas to a three-member Pakistan contingent days before the ISSF shooting World Cup last month. It’s important to note here that they didn’t get the visas as it came hot on the heels of the Pulwama terror attack.
The contents of the letter were confirmed by Vinod Tomar, who spoke to this newspaper on the issue. “In the letter, UWW has asked all federations to cut ties with us (WFI),” he said. “So, today (Tuesday), we have forwarded the letter and sent it to the sports ministry, requesting them to advise us. Tomorrow (Wednesday), hopefully, our president (Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh) will meet with the minister (Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore) and discuss the matter.”
What are UWW after and why did they send the letter now? Tomar is of the opinion that UWW was forced to send the letter after it emerged that India would be hosting the junior Asian Championships in July. It was originally supposed to be held in Lebanon but they expressed an inability to host the tournament. Consequently, India was offered the right to host and did not say no. “I heard that UWW sent that letter on Friday... after it came to light that we were going to be hosting the junior meet. They hadn’t sent any letter till then,” Tomar opined.
What the UWW are after is a written guarantee from the government of India saying all athletes will be given visas for the Asian meet, which is scheduled to be held from July 9-14. Interestingly, India held the event last year as well and Pakistani wrestlers were given visas.
The one saving grace in all this is that UWW has not made a motion to suspend the federation or bar India ‘s athletes from taking part in international events a year before the Olympics. “No, no... nothing like that. There is absolutely no problem for our athletes, they can compete anywhere under the Indian flag. That’s not a problem.” He is less engaging when asked what would happen if the government doesn’t give written guarantees stating all athletes would be given visas. “I don’t know...”
If WFI fail to get a guarantee, UWW may well move the event out of India thus making it the first meet to be shifted outside the country after the International Olympic Committee’s rap last month.