Simplify visa clearances, urges Pakistan badminton star

Pakistan's top shuttler Wajid Ali Chaudhry is concerned about the uncertainty and perennial tension affecting the players.Wajid, who is part of a six-member Pakistan team for the Badminton Asia Championships, said he and his colleagues had almost given up hope of making the trip because of the hassles in getting clearances.

Like other Pakistani teams which had their tales of woe in coming to take part in the Commonwealth Games test events in the last two months, the badminton players also had their share of travails.

"We would have returned home from the Wagah border if the Indian high commissioner to Pakistan had not faxed the necessary papers of clearance in time for us to proceed," Wajid told IANS.

Wajid gave the example of the Pakistani rugby Sevens team, which arrived in India only on the day of the tournament earlier this month for the Asian championship, forcing a change in the draw and the schedule of fixtures.

"The point is: why does this happen to Pakistani players going over to India or your teams going to our country when no other overseas player faces a problem in getting the clearances?

"I request the governments of both the countries, on behalf of all sportspersons, to keep the procedures simple, and don't make it difficult for us. Politics has no place in sports. The sportspersons should not suffer because of  strained political ties between the two countries. In fact, use sport to bring the people in the two countries  together."
"See what is happening in cricket. The two countries are not playing bilaterally and you know how much excitement an India-Pakistan match generates and interest among the fans in the subcontinent."

Wajid said keeping Pakistani cricketers out of the Indian Premier League (IPL) made matters worse.

"The IPL is a big tournament; naturally all Pakistani fans would like to see our cricketers playing here. Instead, they are sitting at home when all international players are playing in the IPL. It does make you feel bad; such a thing should not have happened."

Wajid said the Commonwealth Games is an important event for Pakistani sportspersons.
"There are so many test events happening before the Commonwealth Games. These are all world class events and we can learn so much playing here. The Games are critical for Pakistani athletes. We do not want to miss them for other than sporting reasons."
As for badminton, Wajid says India's standard has gone up by leaps and bounds.
"There was a problem in our national federation and we are participating in an international event after one year. This gap is huge in any sport. I was doing well in the singles and was in the top 100 but then slipped. We have to pick the pieces again and it takes time to regain rhythm."

"In contrast, Indian badminton is really looking up. Saina (Nehwal) has been amazing. She is up there with the world's best," said Wajid.

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