'No funding if you ignore country's call'

Sports ministry upset with many players skipping Asian Games

The Sports Ministry on Wednesday issued fresh warning to National Sports Federations (NSF) stating that players will be given government grants only if they play for the country without reservation.

The government had come with this guideline on July 18, 2013. In the case of “specific exigencies” which prevented the players from playing, the guideline demanded it to be first verified by the concerned NSF before taking a final decision.

However, ahead of the 2014 Asian Games several top tennis players like Somdev Devvarman, Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna pulled out at the last minute to concentrate on the professional circuit. Even Sania Mirza had initially pulled of the Incheon Games before changing her decision which fetched her gold in the mixed doubles and bronze in the women’s doubles.

Taking note of the withdrawals, the Ministry stated on Wednesday: “..it was noticed, while finalising the Indian contingent for the  Incheon Asian Games 2014, that senior and rank holding sportspersons of some sports disciplines decided to pull out, preferring to play in prize money tournaments instead of participating in the Asian Games giving the impression that such sportspersons do not take these sports competitions seriously.
 Multi-sports events are held once in four years and the nation takes pride in the number of medals won in these prestigious sports events.

 “It is also informed that such sportspersons, who decide not to take part in international tournaments including multi-disciplinary sports events where India as a team participates for medals rather than cash awards, will not be considered for funding from the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF).”

However, All India Tennis Association (AITA) strongly defended the players saying that it was essential for them to play on the professional circuit to boost their rankings.

“The three players represented India in the Davis Cup one week before the Asian Games and India lost a very close tie to Serbia – this shows their commitment to the nation,”  AITA secretary-general Bharat Oza said in a statement.

“It has to be understood that it is essential for the players to have good ranking as otherwise they would not be able to represent the nation in Grand Slams, Davis Cup and Olympic Games. AITA is confident that the three players in question would have definitely won medals for the country and would have earned large cash rewards from the Central Government and State Governments. 

“In fact by skipping the Asian Games and playing Challengers/ATP events, the players in question have lost money in order to protect their rankings.

“In any case, the other Indian players performed exceedingly well and India achieved a medals tally of five out of the maximum seven possible.”

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