The factional infighting within the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) has jeopardized the sport’s inclusion in the South Asian Games. Just two days before the opening ceremony, basketball’s world governing body FIBA shot off letters to participating nations, advising them to not take part in the competition.
In a strongly-worded letter dated February 2, 2016, FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann told representatives of the six nations to ‘refrain from sending any of your national teams to this basketball event’, citing ‘unacceptable interference’ by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) as the reason. The IOA has not yet recognised the current leadership of the BFI, led by K Govindraj, even though it enjoys backing of the international association.
The infighting led to the IOA forming an ad-hoc committee to select the team for the South Asian Games, which did not go well with the FIBA. The Indian team, which was supposed to leave for Guwahati on Tuesday has stayed put at its base in Delhi as the likelihood of the sport being axed from the Games loomed large.
The IOA, however, has maintained a firm ground and insisted that the event will be as scheduled. “They have merely derecognised the tournament. We can conduct it even without them. We do not want to scrap the event at the last moment since all the teams have made their travel arrangements,” an IOA official said.
However, the nations will be cautious before taking any further steps as sending the teams, fearing sanctions if they go against the advice of the governing body. In his letter, sent to officials from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka, Baumann criticised the IOA’s interference and insisted they have not recognised the competition.
“Please be informed that due to unacceptable interference by the Indian Olympic Association in the affairs of the Basketball Federation of India, FIBA is unable to recognise and endorse the basketball competitions of the South-Asian Games scheduled to take place form 11 to 16 February 2016,” the letter stated. “The Indian Olympic Association as well as the State authorities in charge of sport in India continuously fail to recognise the Basketball Federation of India duly recognised by FIBA despite the several correspondences issued by FIBA to all relevant authorities in India. Accordingly, the Indian Olympic Association has granted to an Ad-hoc Committee the authority to select the Indian national teams due to participate in this event in complete violation of FIBA’s decisions and directions.”
He added that the issue was discussed during FIBA’s Asia Board meeting last Saturday, where they ‘condemned’ IOA’s actions and took a serious note of its interference in team selection.
While the IOA officials were confident that the basketball events will be held as scheduled, expressed concerns over the prevailing situation. Maxwell De Silva, secretary general of Sri Lanka’s Olympic association said their team is set to reach Guwahati on February 9. “Our team has prepared for this competition and the squad of 32 (men and women) is arriving on February 9. Ideally, the basketball competition should be held,” De Silva said.
The South Asian Games will be held in Guwahati and Shillong from February 5 to 16.