Asian Games: Sports Ministry relaxes selection norms

Hope for Indian football team increases; more entries likely.

The biggest beneficiary of the decision is expected to be the Indian football team.   -  Prashant Nakwe

There might be hope after all for the Indian football team’s participation in the Asian Games, and a handful of others as well, after the Sports Ministry on Wednesday relaxed its own selection norms with an eye on maximising the medal tally at the quadrennial event.

With just one month left for the Games to begin and the draws for team and individual events long over, however, it remains to be seen whether the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) manages to get the late entries accommodated by the organisers.

The ministry, in a communiqué to the IOA, has allowed it to relax the qualifying norms that were notified in 2015 and “reassess the decisions taken for sending entries and send their recommendations” for the Asian Games “in the larger interest of sports and sportspersons.”

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“There have been concerns raised from various quarters that many deserving athletes/teams are not able to participate due to their inability to meet the guidelines because of various reasons including less exposure and restrictive spread...based on the IOA recommendations the ministry may consider including sports disciplines/athlete as part of Indian contingent...” it states.

Late entries

“The IOA has told us it will try and get late entries accepted by the organisers, it is IOA’s responsibility. The IOA in consultation with the federations has to recommend the names/teams that it feels can finish among the top four at Asiad even if they do not meet the criteria. This has been done to ensure maximum medals for the country,” Sports Secretary Rahul Bhatnagar told Sportstar.

While the biggest beneficiary of the decision is expected to be the Indian football team, the decision has also put the IOA in a quandary given that it has repeatedly stressed on going by the government norms in clearing the contingent. The number of entries is also likely to balloon now with more claimants to a ticket to Jakarta cropping up.

The men’s handball team has already got clearance after it went to court and with this new tweaking, others are likely to step up as well. Already there are murmurs of modern pentathlon and Dressage riders in equestrian seeking entry.

At the same time, the likes of Pencak Silat — who have been cut from 22 to 2 — who won five medals at the Asian Beach Games and six at the test event for Asiad have cried foul.

Sources say Kurash is also likely to get the boot.