The coach of an Indian kabaddi team currently in Pakistan – without approval of the government or IOA – to take part in a World Cup said on Monday that the players had gone across the border in their individual capacity and it was not the first such instance.
The players representing India at the Kabaddi World Cup (Circle Kabaddi) all hail from Punjab and coach Harpreet Singh Baba said they got the invitation for the tournament at an individual level and have been playing in such events earlier also without the approval of the Ministry of External Affairs or the Indian Olympic Association.
The Kabaddi World Cup features teams from 10 countries but the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India and Punjab Kabaddi Federation (India) denied sending any official team to the event. “We had got the invitation for this event last year and the invitation was sent to individual players as well as clubs and the Punjab Kabaddi Federation. Players have played in such tournaments individually and on their own and as a promoter, I have always encouraged players to play and help in the growth of the sport,” Baba told The Indian Express from Lahore.
“Each of us had applied for visa individually and the team was named India since the tournament is called the World Cup. If there was any objection from the Ministry of External Affairs, sports Ministry, Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) or Punjab Kabaddi Federation, they should have stopped us from coming here. We have come here on a valid visa. Most of these players have played across the world as individuals in various events.”
The Indian Olympic Association too distanced itself from the ‘Indian’ team in Pakistan as did AKFI. Justice SP Garg (retired), administrator, AKFI denied giving permission to any team to go to Pakistan. The tournament is being played at Lahore, Faisalabad and Gujrat in Pakistan from February 9 to February 16. “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. AKFI does not support any such activity. Legal action may be taken,” Garg said in a statement.
Punjab Kabaddi Federation denied approving the visit across the border. “We did not issue any letter or any official communication to players regarding this tournament. The Pakistan Kabaddi Federation had sent Punjab Kabaddi Federation the invite to this tournament to support this tournament and had mailed the Federation apart from sending invites to players individually. Players from Punjab are competing in this tournament as a unit and as per my information, the Pakistan Kabaddi Federation, which is recognized by Pakistan Government, is organising the tournament,” said Tejinder Singh Middukhera, vice-president of Punjab Kabaddi Federation.
The team, which won its opening match of the tournament against Germany, consists of Amritpal Singh Ninni, Amritpal Singh, Arshdeep Singh, Gurlal Ghanaur, Kuldeep Singh, Malwinder Singh, Navjot Singh, Tarinder Singh, Vinay, Ravi Parkas and Deepak. Ghanour, the captain of the team who attended the opening press conference in Lahore on Saturday, had said: “We are here to support the game and thankful to the organisers. There is no fear for us as players here. People here are appreciating us and will come to see us play.”