U-23 wrestlers denied visas to Spain, WFI cries foul

U-23 wrestlers denied visas to Spain, WFI cries foul

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The national federation (WFI) announced on Monday that the Spanish embassy had strangely rejected visas for 21 Indian wrestlers who were scheduled to compete at the U-23 World Championship in Pontevedra on the grounds that they might not leave the country before their visas expired.

Only nine of the 30-member team selected by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for the Championship, which got underway on Monday, were given visas. One of the wrestlers that were unable to compete was India's first-ever Under-20 world champion, Antim Panghal.

The WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar told PTI, "This is something we have never faced before. Despite presenting the Indian government's clearance and an invitation from the world governing body UWW, our wrestlers have been denied visas on the most frivolous ground."

"We got the rejection letters this evening (Monday) after we made a request to release the passports as soon as possible. This is really bizarre. I really don't know how the officer came to the conclusion that wrestlers and coaches won't come back to India."

Only six of the WFI's nine coaches received visas despite the WFI having also filed for them. Only Aman (57 kg) of the ten freestyle wrestlers received a visa; the visa requests of the other nine were denied. Three freestyle coaches were interestingly given visas. Six Greco-Roman wrestlers were able to obtain visas, but only Ankush (50 kg) and Mansi (59 kg) were from the women's team.

"Now how can we send three coaches for one wrestler, so we are sending Mr Jagmander Singh with Aman. Six Greco-Roman wrestlers have already reached Spain and two women wrestlers left on Sunday," said Tomar.  "Our wrestlers are strong medal contenders, they have denied them the opportunity to shine on the big stage," he added.

The head coach of the Greco-Roman team, Mahabir Prasad, proposed a ban on Spain. "This is really humiliating. What do they think of Indian wrestlers and coaches? Why won't we leave the country, we were only going to compete and I have been to Spain and USA at least 5-6 times in the past," fumed Mahabir, a Dronacharya awardee.

"Spain should be fined and banned. It has already created a huge issue at the Championship. It's a matter of shame for Spain as a country. Our wrestlers lost just an opportunity but Spain has lost face," he said. Mahabir recalled how the UWW had warned the WFI that it risked being banned if it denied Pakistani wrestlers the chance to compete at the Asian Championship in 2019.

"UWW had said it would ban India if Pakistan were to deny entry for Asian championship in New Delhi. Now that was at Asian level and now this is at the world level. We will see what UWW does now," he said.

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