Anup Valmiki was granted a four-month break from his employers in the railways, back in May, to play in the Australian top-flight hockey league. He was supposed to report at the Goulburn Hockey Club’s training centre in Melbourne on June 15, but he’s still struggling to get a visa. Top shuttlers Parupalli Kashyap, Sikki Reddy and HS Prannoy applied for a New Zealand visa last week, but have not been given back the passports they need to travel to the United States and Canada for upcoming events this week.
Feeling helpless, the athletes took to social media to announce their plight to the Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. It’s not the first time such a thing has happened. But once again, it highlights the need for sporting federations to employ a specialised logistics manager to assist athletes for international tournaments – an official tasked with organising transport, visa and lodging arrangements for the players.
“There’s no point giving a player a nutritionist, or a trainer, or even a coach if the athlete has to run pillar to post a week before a tournament just to get the flights and visas sorted,” says former India hockey captain Viren Rasquinha. “Having a player stressed because of logistics days before a tournament puts to waste the six months of hard work in just a week.”
A logistic manager would be the single point of contact with regards to travel arrangements. Currently, shooters meet for a national camp just over a week before an international tournament – approximately the same time when travel applications have to be submitted. “What often happens during camp is that the coaches are all away trying to get the visas sorted, so the player is alone during practice,” says Ronak Pandit, husband-coach of Olympian Heena Sidhu.
In turn, Prannoy has called for a change in policy when it comes to sportspersons. In the shuttler’s case, his passport is currently with the New Zealand embassy, while he is set to travel to North America in a few days. “There needs for a separate policy. I’ve missed out on two tournaments in the past because my passport didn’t come to me in time,” he says.
Measures are slowly being taken to provide officials designated with organising travel plans for athletes. The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) is expected to appoint a logistics manager and a high-performance director in the coming week.
The PMO-set task force too has recommended the requirement of all federations to employ a logistics manager. “The recommendations have been sent to the PMO. At the end of the day, we can’t leave athletes fending for themselves before major tournaments. A logistics manager is necessary, and it’s still quite a basic thing,” says Rasquinha.