Rajeev Mehta: IOA to look into visa hurdles for Pakistan sportsmen

The Indian Olympic Association secretary-general says discussions will be held with the government after the general elections to look into the matter.

Rajeev Mehta (right, here with Narinder Batra) says the problem will be solved only after IOA talks to the government.   -  PTI

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) will have discussions with the government after the general elections to address the visa issues faced by Pakistan athletes, its secretary general Rajeev Mehta said here on Thursday.

Mehta, here for the launch of India’s first Kho-Kho league, claimed a few Pakistani players had shown interest to participate in this league.

“We will talk to the government after May 23 regarding the visa issues faced by Pakistan players. Pakistan athletes have expressed their wish to participate in this league,” Mehta, who is also the chairman of the Kho-Kho Federation of India, said.

“It is not about only Kho-Kho. Other sporting events which are part of International Olympic committee (IOC) are also facing similar problems, which can be solved only after IOA talks to the government,” he told reporters.

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The IOC had revoked the Olympic qualification status of a shooting tourney in New Delhi after India had refused to grant visa to two Pakistani athletes and an official in the wake of the terrorist attack in Pulwama, Jammu & Kashmir, in February, 2019. Pointing out that the action was against the Olympic charter, the IOC had banned India from hosting future events and had urged international sports federations not to stage competitions in the country.

While India hosts a number of leagues across sports, none of them see the participation of Pakistan players.

The latest in the list is the ‘Ultimate Kho-Kho’, a franchise-based league proposed to be held in November, 2019. The league witness some interesting features in the sport, like the introduction of ‘wazir’, who is free to run either left or right in the wing but cannot cross the entire line.

'Modern, exciting' kho-kho

“We brought in the concept of wazir to make it more modern, more exciting and more youth friendly. we are confident that people will enjoy this new approach and style that this traditional sport will bring,” Sudhanshu Mittal, the KKFI president, said.

The 28-minute match will see a round of seven minutes each, with four turns in two innings. Among other innovations, instant replacement of defenders has been introduced, besides two reviews per innings.

Amit Burman, promoter of the league and vice-chairman, Dabur Foods, said, “Our vision is to spread the sport to every corner and we will do whatever is required to build a successful sport league.”