A day after the sports ministry approached the UK government with a visa request for Sania Mirza’s son — stating that the tennis player “cannot leave a two-year-old child behind as she travels for a month” — a British High Commission spokesperson informed The Indian Express that the “case is currently under consideration.”
India had been put on the UK government’s travel ‘red list’ last month over the fear of the new COVID-19 strain. Those flying from the nations on ‘red list’ have to undergo strict quarantine and more tests. However, the UK border regulation has jobs that qualify for travel exemptions, including guidelines for elite sportspersons.
On Wednesday, the Sports Ministry had sought the intervention of the External Affairs Ministry for the visas of Sania’s son Izhaan and his caretaker.
“Sania, who is a part of the Sports Ministry’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), approached the Ministry requesting help with the visa of her son and his caretaker. Sania stated that she cannot leave a two-year-old child behind as she travels for a month,” the ministry said in a statement.
Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, Sania is expected to compete in the England grass-court tournaments throughout June — starting from the Nottingham Open, the Birmingham Open and the Eastbourne Open, before the Wimbledon. According to the ministry, though Sania has been granted a visa to travel to Nottingham, her son and his caretaker have not received UK visas owing to the travel restrictions on Indian travellers.
The case could be a precursor to mothers of young children competing at the Tokyo Games.
At the prior editions, children travelled as a family member of the competing athlete. The family could either stay together outside the athletes’ village or mothers could visit their children during events and training. But the Japan border is closed for foreign nationals from 159 countries “unless special exceptional circumstances are found”.
USA Today columnist Nancy Armour wrote earlier this month: “IOC spokesperson Christian Klaue said that women athletes who want to bring their children to Tokyo will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, without providing detail on how that would be possible under Japan’s entry restrictions.”
During the Italian Open this month, Serena Williams hinted that she could skip the Olympics if she’s unable to bring her three-year-old daughter Olympia. “I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself. We’re best friends,” the 39-year-old said. Earlier this year, during the Australian Open in January, Serena had said, “I would not be able to go function without my 3-year-old around. I think I would be in a depression. We’ve been together every day of her life.”
During a US soccer media call in April, American footballer and World Cup-winner Alex Morgan said: “It’s important to allow mothers the option to have their kids with them while they compete. I’ve been lucky to be able to do that every single camp. I hope I continue to feel that way leading into the Olympics and in the Olympics.”
The 2012 Olympic gold medallist was also uncertain whether her one-year-old daughter would be able to accompany her to Toyko.
“I have not been given more information than what everyone else knows. I’m just still very hopeful that I’ll have my daughter with me, (and someone) who will be able to watch her during training and games,” said Morgan. “It’s important to allow mothers the option to have their kids with them while they compete… if a child is under one or two, they might still be breastfeeding, so that’s a huge piece of it.”
During a Team USA media call, six-time Olympic gold-medallist sprinter and mother of a three-year-old daughter Allyson Felix said, “I would be most sensitive to moms who are breastfeeding, new moms, moms with very small babies. I know how crucial that is.”