A six-member Pakistan team will take part in the Asian Athletics Championships to be held in Bhubaneswar as the Indian government has granted them visas for the same. India are set to host the Championships for the third time from July 6 to 9 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
The development was confirmed by AFI Secretary CK Valson who said, “I can confirm that the Pakistani athletes have got the visas. It was a relief for us, we wanted them to take part in the championships,” reported PTI.
The participation of the Pakistani team in the Asian Championships had earlier remained in doubt as their visas were delayed and last week AFI President Adille Sumariwalla could not confirm whether or not the team would take part in the event.
Reports emanating from Pakistan said that India has granted visas to six athletes and two officials, but denied visas to one athlete and a top official of the Athletics Federation of Pakistan. The team will leave via the Wagah border on July 3 and from Amritsar, they will then proceed to Bhubaneswar by air. Those who were granted visas are javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem, 400m hurdler Mehboob Ali, his brother Nokar Hussain, Asad Iqbal, Mazhar, Waqar Younis. Syed Fayyaz Hussain, and Mohammad Bilal are the two coaches. However, athlete Nishat and the AFP secretary Mohammad Zafar were denied visas, reports claimed.
Pakistan’s confirmation for the Championships comes as a much-needed breakthrough for sporting relations between India and Pakistan in wake of worsening dipolmatic relationships between the two neighbouring countries, Pakistan were not able to take part in the Asian Wrestling Championships and Asian Snooker Championships, in Chennai during May, as their players were not given visas. Earlier, the Pakistan hockey team was not granted visas for the Junior Hockey World Cup in Lucknow and India also refused to play a bilateral cricket series against their arch-rivals with sports minister Vijay Goel saying, “terrorism and sports can’t go along and Pakistan should understand that”.
More than 800 athletes from 45 countries will take part in the event, to be held at the renovated Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, making it the biggest ever Asian Championships. This is the third time India is hosting the Asian Championships after New Delhi (1989) and Pune (2013). The Pakistani team did participate in the Pune edition, as well.
India is fielding a strong 95-member team at the upcoming edition with four Indian athletes – long jumpers Siddharth Mohan Naik and Nayana James, and triple jumpers Karthik Unnikrishnan and Joyline M Lobo – passing fitness tests on Saturday and receiving clearance to take part in championships.
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