New Delhi: Nothing could be more embarrassing. An ‘Indian team’ has arrived in Pakistan for the World Kabaddi Championship but it is being disowned by both the Union sports ministry and the national federation.
The two are contending that they have not given clearance to any athlete for competing in the neighbouring country.
A contingent from India reached Lahore on Saturday via the Wagah Border to take part in the championship, being hosted by Pakistan for the first time. In no time, pictures of Indians arriving and being received in Lahore surfaced in social media.
Incidentally, the tournament starts on Monday at the Punjab Football Stadium in Lahore, followed by some matches which will also be held in Faisalabad and elsewhere.
The sport ministry is adamant they and the Ministry of External Affairs have not granted permission to any athlete to travel to Pakistan for the event.
"This permission is mandatory while representing the country at any international event," a sports ministry source told PTI on condition of anonymity.
Curiously, the administrator of Amateur Kabbadi Federation of India (AKFI) Justice (Retd) S P Garg also said that the national body has not cleared any such team.
"We came to know about it only after information was sought. AKFI does not support any such activity. Legal action may be taken against the defaulters," he added.
The procedure for participation at overseas events is that the national federation will communicate to the sports ministry which in turn will write to the MEA for political clearance and Home Ministry for security clearance, irrespective of whether the government is funding the contingent or not.
AKFI is currently being run by administrator Justice Garg, after the Delhi High Court struck down it elections held in 2018.
To add to the confusion, Pakistan Punjab Minister for Sports Rai Taimoor Khan Bhatti welcomed the 'Indian contingent' at a Lahore hotel. Earlier, they were duly welcomed and garlanded by the officials of the Pakistan Kabaddi Federation at Wagah border from where they were taken in a security convoy to their hotel in Lahore. The Pakistan authorities must have some communication on the basis of which they set the official machinery in motion.
All the six previous editions of the World Kabbadi Championship took place in India between 2010 and 2019. India have won all six championships, defeating Pakistan in the 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 editions.
Pakistani organisers claim that teams from Australia, England, Germany, Iran, Azerbaijan, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Canada are also taking part in the event.