Twenty-one Indian wrestlers, selected to take part in the U-23 wrestling world championships in Spain, will not make it to the tournament because their visa applications have been rejected.
The Spanish Embassy in India rejected the visa application of the 21 Indian wrestlers and cleared only nine. In the refusal of visa letter sent by the Spanish Embassy to the 21 players, signed by the Head of the consular section, the reason has been given as: “There is a reasonable doubt as to your intention to leave the territory of the Member States before the expiry of the visa.”
India will be forced to field a drastically depleted team in the world championships in Pontevedra, which began on Monday. Indian officials are hopeful some of the wrestlers will still make it if the decision changes, but for now, several of India’s top medal prospects, including Antim Panghal, are likely to miss out on participating in the event.
Antim, created history this year when she became the first Indian woman’s wrestler to win a gold medal in the junior world championships in the 53 kg weight class. Apart from Antim’s weight class, India will not have women competing in seven more categories — 55kg, 57kg, 62kg, 65kg, 68kg, 72kg and 76kg — because of the visa application rejection. In the men’s freestyle, nine wrestlers (61kg, 65kg, 70kg, 74kg, 79kg, 86kg, 92kg, 97kg, 125kg) and four Greco Roman wrestlers (55kg, 63kg, 97kg and 130kg) have also not been issued visas to fly to Spain.
Apart from the players, a number of coaches including Dronacharya awardee Mahavir Prasad and Arjuna awardee Alka Tomar have also not been issued visas by the embassy.
“This has never happened before in our sports history,” said Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) secretary Vinod Tomar. “We had applied for the visa and submitted their passports to the Spanish embassy on the 4th of October. While the visas for a few players came through, we got the rejection letters of the remaining athletes on Monday,” said Tomar.
“This is absurd. Our players aren’t going for tourism or sightseeing. They are going to compete at a world championships. Antim Tomar isn’t an unknown wrestler. She is a world champion. Mahavir Prasad and Alka Tomar are senior coaches as well. They have been invited by the UWW (United World Wrestling). Their journey has been sanctioned by the Government of India and their tickets have been paid for by the government, ” said Tomar.
According to Tomar, the WFI will write to the global governing body of the sport, UWW, not to award hosting rights for major tournaments to Spain.
The WFI, however, is hopeful that should the visas for the men’s freestyle event — to be held from October 20 October 23 — come through, a team might be sent.