Sports ministry at fault for archers missing World Cup, says AAI secretary

File image of Deepika Kumari (TOI Photo)File image of Deepika Kumari (TOI Photo)
CHANDIGARH: In the wake of cancellation of Indian archeryteam’s Medellin World Cupcampaign in Colombia due to closure of the Pakistan airspace, Archery Association of India(AAI) secretary Maha Singh on Sunday lashed out against the sports ministry’s failure to handle the matter tactfully.

TOI had on Saturday reported that top Indian archers, including Olympian Deepika Kumari and many others, were forced to return from the Delhi airport after their trip was cancelled.

It has been learnt that the trip got clearance from the ministry last Monday and thereafter flight bookings were done at the last moment, resulting in tickets being purchased at a very high rate and leaving little time for the federation to suggest alternate routes to the ministry officials.

Reacting strongly to the chronology of events, the AAI secretary claimed that it submitted the proposal 75 days in advance, got the visa applications processed and did all that’s required.

“We had applied for the visa 75 days in advance and submitted it to the ministry to get the tickets issued. It is the federation’s responsibility until the visa process is finalized but getting the tickets is government’s responsibility,” Singh told TOI here.

“During that time, we had conducted the national camp in Pune and after that we organized the National Rankings tournament in Chandigarh last week, keeping in mind the standards of the World Cup. In Chandigarh, we had invited the top players from the country to get used to the standard of competition.”

Maintaining that the air route closure issue over Pakistan isn’t an overnight development, Singh said it was the duty of the ministry to keep the federation in the loop.

“I got a call from one of the archers, who said that the flight has been delayed because of the air route closure over Pakistan. If we had been informed by the ministry in advance, we could have sent our archers at least 3-4 days in advance, and they could have easily acclimatized,” he said.

“It is only the sports secretary who can answer the reason behind all the mess. This (air route) is not something which has happened overnight; it has been going on since the air strikes. Now they are saying that we can’t allow the team to travel as they will reach the same day,” he added.

On being asked if he had been in touch with the ministry since the archers were forced to return on Saturday, Singh said: “No one from the ministry has responded to our calls since Saturday.”

TOI’s attempts to get a response from DG SAI Neelam Kapur also went futile. Some archers reached the airport only to be told by the airline — KLM Royal Dutch — that they would miss their connecting flight. The archers were flying Delhi-Amsterdam-Bogota.

From Bogota, they were booked on a domestic flight to Medellin, venue of the WC.