The Spanish Embassy in India has rejected the visa applications of 21 Indian wrestlers who were due to compete in the U-23 World Championships. Only nine of the 21 visa applications from Indian wrestlers have been approved by the Spanish Embassy in India. According to the visa refusal letter given to the 21 players by the Spanish Embassy and signed by the head of the consular division, “there is a reasonable doubt as to your intention to leave the territory of the Member States before the expiry of the visa”.
In order to participate in the world championships in Pontevedra, which started on Monday, India should present a very small team. Even though Indian authorities are optimistic that some of the wrestlers could still compete if the decision is changed, it is now unlikely that Antim Panghal and other top medal contenders for India will compete.
For Indian wrestlers, the U-23 World Championships have always been a comfortable hunting ground. But this time, the best wrestlers in the country will not be competing since the Spanish embassy in this country has refused to provide them with visas for the competition which will be held in Pontevedra from October 17 to 23.
There are concerns about “the purpose and conditions of their intended stay”, according to a senior embassy official, in the northwestern Spanish city. The Indian team will not take part in the coveted encounter, which is attracting a group of athletes of the highest caliber, for the first time in six years of competition.
Shivani Pawar’s historic silver medal in the women’s 50kg division capped the country’s most successful performance in the competition since its first edition in 2017. Indian wrestlers won an impressive five medals at the 2021 edition of the tournament in Belgrade.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chose a 45-person Indian delegation for Worlds, which included 30 wrestlers in the men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman divisions. Women’s 53kg wrestler Antim Panghal, Sagar Jaglan, World Cadet Men’s 74kg champion, Asian Cadet Women’s 72kg bronze medalist Reetika Hooda and World Junior 65 silver medalist kg among Bhateri women were among the biggest names.
Schengen visa applications were submitted to the embassy on October 4 in the “regular” category, according to WFI Deputy Secretary Vinod Tomar, and tickets were booked in accordance with their scheduled departure on October 16. Although nine wrestlers had already left for the event, the embassy warned them that their visa applications had been canceled because they could overstay their stay in Pontevedra. Antim’s visa request was shared by the WFI; he was refused a visa for an insignificant reason.
“The Spanish Embassy in New Delhi has reviewed your application and the visa has been refused. The decision is based on the following grounds: the information provided regarding the justification of the purpose and conditions of the intended stay were not There are reasonable doubts about your intention to leave the territory of the Member State before the expiry of the visa,” said Helena Escorial López, Head of the Consular Section at the Spanish Embassy in India, who signed the request.
In an interview with TOI, Tomar said the embassy requested that they apply for visas while using “premium lounge services”, which would have made the whole trip “abnormally expensive”.
Tomar said, “This is nothing but authoritarianism from the embassy. We will never send our wrestling teams to Spain again in the future. We will be writing to United World Wrestling (the world governing body for wrestling) asking them not to award any major international tournaments to the Spanish wrestling federation. We will file a formal complaint with the UWW for the embarrassment the Indian wrestlers have had to go through.
He added: “They wanted us to apply through their premium salon services. But why should we? This is not the first time that the Indian team has traveled on a Schengen visa. There are several wrestlers in the U23 team bound for the Worlds with several Schengen visas. Why weren’t they allowed for the tournament? The embassy doubted the intention of our wrestlers to stay longer and not return from Spain. It’s a joke. If that had been the case, they wouldn’t have come back sooner either.
Only nine wrestlers, according to Tomar, went to the World Championship without any coaching or support staff, out of the 45-member field. “Aman Sehrawat (men 57 kg), Ankush Panghal (women 50 kg) and Mansi Ahlawat (women 59 kg) and six Greco-Roman wrestlers will be taking part. The others will miss a great opportunity to become world champions, ”he concluded.