Sports body's apathy denies young athletes a shot at the world stage

The 10 athletes were all set to take part in the Modern Biathle/Triathle World Championships in Guatemala in Central America starting today, until they realised that the authorities at the Modern Pentathlon Federation of India (MPFI) had delayed getting their transit visas

The alleged apathy shown by those in charge of a sports body have ensured that the dream of 10 under-18 athletes to make India proud by winning medals at the 2014 Modern Biathle/Triathle World Championships in Guatemala will remain just that a dream.

Two of the ten athletes
Two of the ten athletes

The championships, organised at the Pacific Naval Command, Escuintla, Guatemala, are slated to begin today and go on till October 12 and the 10 athletes were all set to take part in them, until they realised that the authorities at the Modern Pentathlon Federation of India (MPFI) had delayed getting their transit visas.

One of the young athletes
One of the young athletes

MPFI, which is recognised by the Indian Olympic Association, was eventually forced to cancel the trip. Out of the 10 athletes, seven are from Pune, two from Thane and one from Haryana. Since there is no direct flight to Guatemala from India, the team was planning to take connecting flights through Paris and Mexico. The trip had to be cancelled because there was a delay in applying for the Mexican transit visa.

Modern Pentathlon Federation of India Secretary General Namdev Shirgaonkar
Modern Pentathlon Federation of India Secretary General Namdev Shirgaonkar

“As per the itinerary, we had to reach Guatemala by October 7. From our end, we had submitted the passports to MPFI authorities by September 20 and the responsibility to take the procedure forward lay with MPFI Secretary General Namdev Shirgaonkar. Since he was out of the country for an event, he had reportedly given the responsibility to his brother, who failed to do a proper follow-up,” a parent of a participant from Thane alleged.

“Whoever was appointed by MPFI to look after the visa and transit visa applications delayed the procedure and our children could not participate in the championships because of that. He should have applied well in advance knowing that there was a long holiday from October 2-6.

Our children had to miss out on this opportunity because of a failure on the MPFI’s part, and this has lowered the kids’ morale,” the parent added. A parent of one of the athletes from Pune said, “My son had been missing school for the last month and had even missed his exams to train for the championships in Guatemala. When he came to know on Sunday that he wouldn’t get to go, he was heartbroken.”

‘Nobody’s fault’
MPFI Secretary General Namdev Shirgaonkar said, “There was a delay in completing the application procedure because the participants submitted their passports late. We had got only one passport till September 20.

As per the Guatemalan Embassy rules, all participants should be physically present for their visas but we requested them to allow us to submit the applications together as it was not possible for everyone to go the embassy together. They had to take an approval for this, which took some time, because of which the visas were delayed.”

“We got the Guatemalan visas on October 1 but, in order to get there, we needed transit visas from Mexico or USA. We applied for transit visas at the Mexican embassy, but they gave us an appointment for October 8, which was of no use to us. We had to decide against sending the team as doing so without proper visas could cause problems,” he added.

When mid-day told him about parents’ allegations that the MPFI had delayed applying for the visas, Shirgaonkar said, “Neither the participants nor MPFI are to blame. We couldn’t get the transit visas because of the continuous public holidays from October 2-6.”

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