New Delhi, October 19
The controversy over the denial of visas to 21 Indian wrestlers to travel to Spain for the ongoing U-23 World Championships refuses to die down.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has once again pointed the finger at Spanish embassy staff for wrongfully denying visas to Indian wrestlers, saying the decision was unjustified.
“This is a surprising development for us,” said WFI Chairman Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. “What was the real reason for the refusal of visas? They rejected applications from athletes who had systematically traveled abroad; even World Championship medalists were turned away. On the other hand, a girl who had no supporting documents to travel from the government obtained the visa in three days. What do you think happened here,” he added.
Singh cited the case of Bhawna, who wrestles in the women’s 76kg category. Bhawna secured the visa within three days despite not being on the Sports Authority of India (SAI) sanctioned list for the U-23 World Championships. Incredibly, his visa application was sanctioned by a travel agency.
After Priyanka, who was due to compete in the 76kg category, injured her leg earlier this month, Bhawna requested that her name be included as a replacement. Bhawna was the finalist in the trials. The WFI gave him a letter of support, on the understanding that the federation would not be able to obtain his visa in time. The WFI then wrote to United World Wrestling to accommodate this last minute change. However, the request was denied.
Singh said the Spanish embassy acted irresponsibly. “When a country is awarded a sporting event, it is required to provide visas to all athletes, including those from countries with which we do not have friendly relations. This denial is therefore rather surprising. Remember, this hurt our chances. Sajan (Bhanwala) won a bronze medal in Greco-Roman wrestling. We would have won a lot more,” Singh said.
“They gave a single freestyle wrestler a visa while three coaches got visas. What is the logic behind this? It only means that the officials sitting there (at the Spanish Embassy) are not responsible people at all,” Singh said.
Embassy officials in New Delhi were not available for comment.