Hoopsters caught in crossroads of BFI, IOA tug of war

P.S. Jeena, the country’s top scorer at the Asian Championship in China a few months ago, along with her Indian teammates Stephy Nixon and P.G. Anjana, is travelling to New Delhi by train tonight. But Jeena, currently the country’s best player, appears to be a very confused girl.

“We had the tickets but we were in two minds for a few hours, whether to go or not,” said the 22-year-old power forward from Thiruvananthapuram.

P.S. Jeena, the country’s top scorer at the Asian Championship in China a few months ago, along with her Indian teammates Stephy Nixon and P.G. Anjana, is travelling to New Delhi by train tonight.

But Jeena, currently the country’s best player, appears to be a very confused girl.

“We had the tickets but we were in two minds for a few hours, whether to go or not,” said the 22-year-old power forward from Thiruvananthapuram. “Anyway, we will decide whether or not to take part in the trials once we reach New Delhi.”

Hundreds of miles away, Indian men’s captain Vishesh Bhiruguvanshi has similar worries about the ‘trials’.

“I’m on the train to Varanasi, my home. Tomorrow, we will get to know whether we have to go for the trials or not,” said the Indian skipper over phone.

The South Asian Games begin in Guwahati and Shillong on February 5 but while teams such as Pakistan and Maldives are getting ready for the basketball event in Guwahati, shockingly, India has not even selected their men’s and women’s squads yet!

With faction fighting virtually breaking up the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), relations between the hoop game’s national body and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) have soured to dismal levels.

IOA’s trials

The IOA has sent an email, dated January 25, to all member units of the BFI to send their best players for trials to pick the Indian teams. The IOA’s trials will be held at the Indira Gandhi indoor stadium in New Delhi on January 30 – 10 a.m. for women and 3 p.m. for men – and the BFI is quite upset about it. It has shot off a warning.

“The IOA is not eligible to conduct any basketball event as per the Karnataka High Court Stay Order dated October 14, 2015. Any unit which sends its players will be sending them at their own risk,” K. Govindaraj, the President of the BFI, has said in a letter sent to the association’s affiliated units.

With that being the situation, the players, especially the stars who have a bright future ahead of them, are worried. Many of them are caught between the devil and the deep sea, with pressure to play in the South Asian Games coming from their employers like Railways and the ONGC but risking their future prospects if the BFI takes action against them.

“I don’t right now. If our department gives us permission, I will go because we are employees of an organisation,” said Indian captain Bhriguvanshi, an ONGC employee. “And since the ONGC is sponsoring the South Asian Games, we may have to go.”

The Railways has also asked its players, including Anitha Pauldurai, R. Smruthi and Rajapriyadarshini who helped it win the Senior National women’s title in Mysuru recently, to attend the trials.

Meanwhile, BFI President K. Govindaraj said the IOA does not have any right to interfere with his federation.

“If you go by logic and rules, the federation has to conduct the event. The IOA does not have any right to interfere in the federation’s activities. The IOA comes under the IOC Charter, if they follow the IOC Charter, when an international federation recognises any national federation, it is the duty of the IOA to recognise and follow the procedures,” he said.

“But now, I don’t know… the Government and the IOA are handling it. The (world body) FIBA will interfere at the appropriate time.”

Selections done

“We have already selected our teams, and if it (basketball at the Games) happens, we will field our players. If it doesn’t happen, it is up to the Government. We just concluded our National Championship (ended in Mysuru on Jan. 16), the team was finalised yesterday and the camp will start in Mangalore on Monday,” he said.

Strangely, there was no mention about the players selected for the South Asian Games or about the national camp in the BFI’s letter to its affiliated units sent just a couple of days ago.