New Delhi: The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has been left shell shocked after a Kabaddi team from India reached Pakistan to take part in the World Championship.
Speaking to IANS, IOA chief Narinder Batra said on Monday that the team, which reached Lahore on Saturday, is not an official one from the country and hence, they cannot use the word "India" under their banner as they have not been approved by the Amateur Kabbadi Federation of India (AKFI).
"The IOA has not approved and it has also not been approved by the federation so I don't know who has gone. Whether 60 or 100 have gone, I have no idea. The kabaddi federation, which is a member of IOA, has confirmed that they have not sent anyone. I have seen statements from the (sports) ministry which confirm they have not approved anyone. So I don't know who they are and what the story is," Batra said.
"It has got nothing to do with Indian sports," he added.
The team reached Lahore through the Wagah Border to take part in the championship, which is being hosted for the first time in Pakistan. All the six previous editions of the championship were held in India between 2010 and 2019 where the hosts emerged victorious on all occasions.
"As long as our member unit has not cleared it, they cannot use the word 'India.' It has to come through IOA and the government, only then you can use that word. Some individuals with Indian passport go and play there as India, that is not how sports are run. But then, I can never predict anything about Pakistan, that's beyond my control. They can do whatever they want," Batra said.
According to the procedure, for participation at overseas events, the national federation needs to communicate to the sports ministry which in turn writes to the ministry of external affairs for political clearance and home ministry for security clearance, irrespective of whether the government is funding the contingent or not.
The administrator of AKFI Justice (Retd) SP Garg also said that they have no information about any team to have gone to Pakistan.
"No permission was ever granted by AKFI to any team to go to Pakistan and play any kabaddi match there. We came to know about it only after information was sought," he said in a statement.
"AKFI does not support any such activity. Legal action may be taken against the defaulters," he added.
Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, confirmed that no permission has been given to the Kabaddi players to go to Pakistan. "Nobody has given permission to any Kabaddi players to go to Pakistan. Issuance of giving visa is the sovereign prerogative of a country, we have no role in granting visa," Rijiju told ANI.
"We'll talk to the Kabaddi federation on whether it was an informed visit or not. With regard to visa, we have no role. But playing in the name of country or India's flag being used, these are the matters to be investigated," Rijiju added.
According to the organisers of the World Championship, teams from 10 nations are taking part in the event being organised in three cities. A total of 24 matches are scheduled to be played in the tournament with the winners getting a prize money of Rs10 million, while the runner-ups will bag Rs7.5 million.
Players from 10 countries - Pakistan, India, Canada, the United States, Australia, England, Iran, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Azerbaijan are taking part in the event.