MC Mary Kom's behaviour bad, but BFI is also to blame
To say that MC Mary Kom's post-match behaviour was distasteful would be an understatement, for this is an issue that doesn't have two sides.
The defining image of the trial for the Olympic qualifiers between the legendary MC Mary Kom and the up-and-coming Nikhat Zareen was not from the bout, but after the 9-1 decision in favour of the six-time World champion was announced.
Zareen was already applauding her vanquisher as the results were being read out. After the referee lifted the winner's hand, Zareen followed up her applause by moving to hug the senior. All she got was a literal cold shoulder and, according to several accounts, some foul words.
To say that Kom's post-match behaviour was distasteful would be an understatement, for this is an issue that doesn't have two sides. For the last several months, the Boxing Federation of India has been at the centre of a controversy surrounding the Olympic qualification for the 51-kilogram category, a class to which Kom graduated to in 2012 following a tweak in Olympic rules. For many months now, the BFI has been shifting the goalposts on who will represent India in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, while clearly being biased towards Kom.
Zareen's only fault, which has been drawing a lot of ire from Kom and her supporters in the establishment, was to relentlessly pursue a fair shot at securing a slot for the Olympics. She eventually took the drastic step of writing to the sports minister, which did not sit well with Kom.
While Kom's statements over this period and her behaviour in the ring leave a lot to be desired, a fair part of the blame for the current imbroglio needs to be laid at the doorsteps of those who run the sport in India. There were far too many flip-flops by the powers that be that resulted in all the bad blood.
While what happened on Saturday is now firmly in the past, there may still be another clash if Kom does not secure an Olympic spot in February qualifiers in China. Whether that happens or not, senior officials need to get together for an honest post-mortem and put in place protocols to ensure that such instances are not repeated. If they don't do that, boxing will be the ultimate loser.
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