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Wrestling vs Grappling: India’s sports federations locked in battle

The country's grappling federation alleges that WFI has been trying to take over its functioning, first by setting up an alternate body and more recently by requesting UWW to dissolve the GFI. 

Written by Dipankar Lahiri | Kolkata |
Updated: May 30, 2021 11:59:19 am
Action from the Indian Open Grappling Championship 2020 in New Delhi (GFI)

Despite an allegation from the Grappling Federation of India (GFI) that the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is trying to hijack the popularity of grappling as a sport in the country, the WFI has stressed that all associated forms of wrestling should ideally come under its jurisdiction.

Wrestling’s world body, United World Wrestling (UWW), has meanwhile said it is hopeful “both organizations will be able to find a way together to solve this dispute”.

The country’s grappling federation, which has been affiliated with UWW for the past six years, sees the letter sent by the world body to the WFI earlier this month as validation for the hard work they have put in.

“UWW has taken the correct decision by reaffirming GFI as the only body in India for running grappling, taking into consideration the huge progress and popularity of the sport. We have conducted 12 National Championships, different professional championships and have also got the sport included in National School Games and All India University Games” said GFI CEO Shiv Kumar Panchal.

The GFI alleges that WFI has been trying to take over the functioning of the grappling federation, first by setting up an alternate administrative body and more recently by requesting UWW to dissolve the GFI.

“In 2015, the UWW invited interest to set up a grappling federation in India, which initiative the GFI took up. The WFI did not have much interest in the sport then, thinking it is just an associate sport. Since then, grappling has become a popular sport in the country – now there are around 1000 students participating in every National Games, more than 20 states and Union Territories have been affiliated under the GFI,” said GFI joint secretary Ms Supriya Samanta.

“Seeing this popularity, the WFI set up a new body, comprising members of the GFI who had been previously suspended for misdemeanors, to take over the running of grappling in the country,” she said.

Meanwhile, the WFI, while saying it will follow directions sent down from the UWW, said it is best for the sake of “accountability” if grappling in India is also administered by the wrestling body.

“All forms of wrestling fall under the UWW umbrella, not just Freestyle and Greco-Roman, the forms seen in the Olympics. For the sake of accountability, we feel that it will be best if all associated wrestling forms like sand wrestling, mud wrestling and grappling are also administered from one source. We are the administrative body recognized by the UWW, the Olympics as well as the Indian government,” said WFI secretary VN Prasood.

“There are too many styles of wrestling and too many bodies conducting events. This creates a problem for an athlete who has a certificate from one federation but then finds his certificate is ineligible for another federation. To avoid such problems, it will be best if all the federations work under the aegis of the WFI,” he said.

The UWW letter addressed to WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh earlier this month had said: “(Your) attempt (to take grappling under WFI’s umbrella) is made in total disrespect of our decision to entrust GFI with the responsibility to develop grappling as a discipline in India. This cannot be tolerated from any of our members.”

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