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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

If BFI, SAI don’t inform me by next month, I will look for other options: Boxing coach Bergamasco on future in India

Raffaele Bergamasco, who is returning to Italy, believes the two-month contract extension isn't ideal for the preparations and roadmap for Paris 2024. He says that he will look for other options if he's not informed by next month.

Written by Nitin Sharma |
Updated: September 29, 2021 8:12:48 am
Indian boxing team coach Raffaele Bergamasco (L) with Mary Kom (File)

Indian women’s boxing’s high-performance director Raffaele Bergamasco has decided to return to Italy, a day after receiving a two-month extension. Bergamasco believes the short contract extension — which comes after 45 days of no communication from BFI and Sports Authority of India (SAI) regarding his future — isn’t conducive to the preparations and roadmap for Paris 2024, and he will look for other options if he’s not informed by next month. Excerpts:

As of now, BFI is only offering a two-month extension to you. What has been the communication like with SAI or BFI in this regard?

Firstly, the extension is for two months until 30th November 2021, as I received it yesterday through a mail from SAI. A coach has to plan the entire Olympic cycle and take decisions based on it for the build-up competitions. How can you expect me to give my 100 per cent when you know that the contract is only for 2 months. Also, all the important tournaments like AIBA World Championship and Asian Under-22 Championships are lined up for this December, and with the present scenario, I will not be able to stay until then.

I don’t understand what is going to change in these two months that will affect the review process of my past and present performances, which couldn’t have been done in the past 45 days since my return from Tokyo? But now I forgive and move on to my next journey back home.

So you are leaving for Italy and have no idea about returning? What if BFI or SAI don’t decide till next month’s nationals? Will you look for other options?

I made repeated attempts to make BFI and SAI understand my situation. If they cannot make the decision until next month’s national then it’s their problem. If they do not inform me by next month, I will surely look for other options. However, I feel sad to leave India as I had planned to continue work if they had extended the contract until Paris 2024.

How has the last one month been for you, waiting for the decision?

I’ve had a tough time since I arrived in India on September 3, after a small vacation after the Olympics. I had no clue about what I am expected to do next. I wrote to BFI and SAI a couple of times but was given no concrete reply from them regarding my extension and future scope of work. For the first time in India, I had a feeling of being ignored purposefully and then I heard from newspapers about BFI hiring a new coach but to date, there is no clear stand from them on these matters.

What prompted you to return to Italy and have you communicated this to the BFI?

The very fact to offer an extension to an Olympic medal-winning coach is very unprofessional. I believe in face-to-face communication. BFI has asked SAI for two months’ time for reviewing the performance of foreign coaches. I feel that if after 45 days after the Olympics if they still want two months for evaluation then it will be difficult for me to work towards Paris 2024. In a situation, where the administrative delays will consume important preparation time and can have serious effects on future performances. I am within the four walls of the hostel at the Indira Gandhi Stadium since September 3rd and have no work. BFI and SAI could have utilised me immediately upon my return to India for grassroots development if they had any definite plans. After asking for three weeks, when I decided to go back home they sent me news about the extension.

Was this trip to Italy planned suddenly or did you plan to visit home after the Olympics? You could have gone home straight from Tokyo as there was no national camp. But then you decided to come back to India.

I had planned a face-to-face meeting with BFI officials to discuss the future contract and roadmap to Paris 2024. To make them well-versed with the difficulties that may arise in future and find solutions to ensure a smooth training and maintain consistent results. However, the meeting didn’t take place and I learned about the proposed extension of two months from newspapers. After having worked for India, I feel I need an honest answer face to face at least.

In Tokyo, India won the first Olympic medal in boxing since 2012, and other women boxers like Pooja Rani and Simranjit Kaur were close to winning a medal. How do you see the medal now after this delay?

Even I do not have an answer to this and it’s not like I have not written to the SAI and BFI. But they have no concrete plans and answer to my present situation. They just wanted to push time by getting a two-month extension which I don’t deserve after working hard for the past four years. On one side, the Govt. honoured me with a cash award for Lovlina’s medal and recognised my efforts. On the other side, I have no concrete answers about my future engagement after September 30th. However, I do not want to create any controversy and accept it as their way of dealing with the situation. At least, now I am going back and can plan further things for myself and not be occupied with the stress of planning and execution for the India team.

Also, how mentally tough has this phase been for you? You stayed away from your family including your wife, who had to undergo cancer treatment, to be with the Indian boxing team.

It’s always challenging to balance personal life and professional commitment. Sport teaches us team spirit and I always believed in my team, gave my 100 per cent and so we had good results. Obviously, I had to sacrifice by staying away from my wife who needed me the most during her treatment. But she knows me and my passion for work and is really a great source of my inner strength and inspiration.

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