IT’S NOT about money, but respect. It’s not about her, but her parents. And it hurts. Under fire from fans for her threat to “not play any matches” if her father was not allowed inside the Commonwealth Games Village in Australia’s Gold Coast, ace shuttler Saina Nehwal has finally stepped out to clear the air. CWG 2018 Live Updates
Speaking to The Indian Express, Saina said: “I had made the payment and booked tickets for my father. The federation or the IOA confirmed to me that it’s sorted out. When you tell me something, and when I am paying you the whole thing… but this is not about money, it is about respect. Imagine if your parent is there with you and made to look for a place to stay at midnight.”
Her complaint against the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), she said, was their failure to inform her in advance that her father would not be allowed inside the Village. And, she said, her threat to pull out on the eve of the opening ceremony was an “emotional response” to the “lack of respect” shown to her.
“If you want to say Saina is bad, then I am bad, for my parents,” she said.
On Tuesday, the World No 12 wrote a letter to the IOA in which she said she would pull out if her father, Harvir Singh Nehwal, was not granted accreditation to enter the Village. The tussle was resolved that evening. On Thursday, Saina won her opening match easily, beating Sri Lanka’s Dilrukshi Beruwelage 21-8, 21-4 in India’s 5-0 rout in the team event. Later, she breezed past Pakistan’s Mahoor Shahzad 21-7, 21-11.
Asked if a player of her stature should have threatened a pullout, Saina said she could not have waited any longer. “All this wouldn’t have happened if they (IOA) had sorted out the issue. There wouldn’t have been any controversy. My father’s name was cut after we reached here and the chef de mission had signed on the paper. I was patient and pleaded for two days. I lost my cool… how much longer would I wait? I’d made all the arrangements. I paid for his accreditation. Why make him struggle? Make me struggle… This is about respect,” she said.
Saina said players should cover their parents’ expenses during international competitions but did not see anything wrong in them staying together inside the Athletes Village.
“I think it’s not an issue at all. We should pay for our parents, which I totally agree. But I feel they have made us what we are. Our parents are the number one officials for us, then the others. I don’t even care who the other official is. They (parents) are the first ones who have been looking after you since childhood. I am nobody without them. They made me, so I am more than happy to fight for them. I have not done anything wrong. I have done what I had to do. I asked for what they (IOA) promised me. I didn’t do anything extra,” she said.
Saina claimed that she paid the IOA Rs 74,780 on March 31 to cover the expenses of her father’s stay inside the Village after the Sports Ministry refused to bear the cost. According to her, she was told that the money would guarantee Harvir an all-access accreditation and a bed in the Village. However, she said, when they reached Gold Coast on April 2, her father was told to look for a place elsewhere.
Saina claimed that the IOA could not come up with a “proper explanation”.
“I reached the Village at around 11 pm on April 2. At the reception, I was told my father was accredited as a personal coach and could not stay with me in the Village. I asked the chef de mission (Vikram Sisodia) the reason but he did not have the answer. He was fumbling,” she said.
“The list shows clearly that the name (of her father) was cut. If you see all these things, it hurts so much… I didn’t want to fight much because I knew it would get worse,” she said.
That night, Saina said, Harvir stayed in a hotel. “The next day, he came inside the Village and was sitting in the (IOA) office till 7 or 8 in the night. I was stuck, too. I couldn’t train. Should I train or worry about these things? If they had told me before that it’s not happening, I would have done it on my own,” Saina said.
The former World Championship silver medallist said her parents had accompanied her to several competitions abroad. Her father was present at the Rio Olympics as well, she said, although he did not stay at the Games Village and took a day pass to visit her.
“(This time) my only request was to allow him inside the Village and at the matches. They gave ‘P’ (personal coach) category, which gives only training access. I didn’t want a bed — just allow him inside the Village and matches. I didn’t care about anything else. I would have booked his stay elsewhere since I was paying for it anyway,” said Saina.
When contacted by The Indian Express, IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta denied that any assurance was given to the Nehwals. “The Au$ 1,480 does not guarantee a bed inside the Village, it only allows visiting and food expenses. We had informed all federations about this policy several times. It was their duty to inform the athletes. Plus, the organising committee decides the quota of the number of officials who can stay overnight in the Village. We followed the procedure laid down by the organisers,” he said.