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Anju Bobby George, AFI slam Sports Ministry for no permission to host events

Anju Bobby George and AFI express displeasure for denying permission to host events at the premises which are instead used for Indian Super League.

Written by Andrew Amsan | New Delhi |
Updated: March 1, 2018 9:33:08 am
afi jln stadium JLN Stadium was also used for Khelo India School Games.

The Athletics Federation of India and national sports observer Anju Bobby George have expressed their displeasure with the Sports Ministry for not allowing athletics events to be organised at SAI stadiums hosting Indian Super League matches. George, a former World Championship bronze medallist, said that athletes are not even being allowed to train at stadiums which are primarily meant for their discipline.

“They (ISL) have a lot of money. Why don’t they set up their own facilities? If they take over our stadiums, where will our athletes go ?” said George. One of the 12 appointed national observers in sports, she insited that she has tried her best to apprise the concerned officials on the issue, but her efforts have gone futile so far.

“I have tried my best to use my proximity to the ministry as an observer but it is still happening. We have good tracks at these stadiums but athletes are not even allowed to practise there. What is the point in having these facilities if our athletes can’t use it?” she said. The stadiums in contention are the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi, Kanteerava in Bengaluru and JLN Stadium in Chennai. “They book the stadiums for six months straight. We have no place to organise our championships,” AFI secretary CK Valson said on the sidelines of a curtain raiser event for the Federation Cup in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The AFI was hoping to organise the Federation Cup at the Jawaharlal Stadium in New Delhi. However, since the premises were not available, the event has been shifted to Patiala. “The ministry has to think whether football is a more important than athletics — a discipline that brings medals to the country. The federation has written several times to the ministry but they have never considered our request. Athletics has suffered majorly in the last three years due to ISL,” Valson said.

According to Valson, on some occasions the AFI has been forced to organise field events at the practice areas which pose a threat to the safety of athletes.“The Fed Cup is a National Championship and a qualifying event for Commonwealth Games. Do you expect the athletes to compete at the training ground? At practice areas, the structures are not sturdy. Mishaps can happen during events like hammer throw. At one event, the netting came down. What else can we do?” Valson added.

The only exception was the Khelo India Games where the field events were allowed to be held at the central turf in JLN, Delhi. The AFI is learnt to have threatened to pull out of the event if their athletes weren’t allowed to use the turf. “They accepted it because it was their own event. If competitions are held at the practice area, you will hardly have any spectators and that will affect the performance of the competitors,” said Valson. “Our athletes can’t be expected to train at the hard practice grounds. They like to sometimes take a run or rest on the soft turf,” George said.

As many as 700 athletes are expected to take part in the Federation Cup, slated for March 5-8 at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala. The event will serve as the selection trial for the Commonwealth Games. Valson said that the federation is very particular about athletes taking part in the event if they are to be considered for a CWG spot. At the first leg of the Indian Grand Prix held on February 27, a few athletes had achieved the AFI mark for CWG, but they too will have to participate in Patiala. The final list of participants will be announced after a selection committee meeting on March 9.

“We will monitor their performance at the Federation Cup. If they don’t perform close to their previous effort we might reconsider,” Valson said. In athletics, so far only the list of race walkers for Gold Coast has been finalised. In the men’s 20km event, Irfan KT and Manish Singh Rawat have made the cut while the women’s event will have Soumya B and Khushbir Kaur representing the country.

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