Women's World Boxing Championships: BFI still hopeful of Kosovo's participation as tournament kicks off in New Delhi
'As far as Kosovo is concerned, we are quite confident that we will be able to persuade our government on this issue,' Boxing Federation of India chief Ajay Singh said.
New Delhi: The tenth edition of AIBA Women's World Boxing Championship is set to start today in the capital, with hopes of Kosovo's Donjeta Sadiku's participation all but over. The draws of the competition were announced on Wednesday, and Sadiku's name didn't find mention in the list of 300-odd pugilists set to compete at the Indira Gandhi (IG) Stadium.
The Boxing Federation of India (BFI) though is still clinging on hopes of a late go-ahead for Sadiku. India doesn't recognise Kosovo — a territory in south-east Europe that declared independence from Serbia in 2008 — as a country, and hence has not issued her a visa to travel for the competition.
"We are still hopeful of Kosovo's participation. We are in touch with the government and are confident that they will understand our point of view," BFI president Ajay Singh said on Wednesday, shortly after draws for the ten-day competition were announced.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recently written to all the international federations, asking them not to award major events to Spain after athletes from Kosovo were not allowed to participate under their own flag at the Karate World Championships held there.
Singh said he had conveyed his concerns to the government via the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), and expects his point of view to be understood.
"These are sovereign issues. As a sports federation, we can bring to notice of the government our concerns and IOC's views on the matter. We can also try and persuade the government about a certain point of view, but ultimately the decision is a sovereign one.
"As far as Kosovo is concerned, we are quite confident that we will be able to persuade our government on this issue. We believe that the Olympic Movement is separate from the question of recognition. Many countries do not recognise Kosovo, but still allow their athletes to participate in IOC events. We will bring all these facts to the notice of our government and we are quite confident that we will find a resolution, because this concerns not only boxing as a sport but all sporting activities."
IOA president Narinder Batra has already shot a strongly-worded letter to the sports ministry, urging "immediate action" on the matter.
"It is required that immediate action is taken today by Indian authorities to make sure the athletes and delegation from Kosovo will be able to take part in the Women's World Boxing Championships and will be treated in the same conditions as any other participants without any undue discrimination in accordance with the values and principles which govern the Olympic Movement worldwide.
"Failing which the situation will be reported to all international sports organisations concerned for appropriate action which will call into question the hosting of future international sports events in India until the issue is solved," Batra said in the letter on 14 November.
Kosovo participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics despite Brazil not recognising it as a country.
'No individual above sport'
Meanwhile, AIBA's controversial chief Gafur Rakhimov allayed growing concerns about sport's future in the Olympics, and indicated that his election will not be an impediment to boxing's growth.
"There is nothing to worry about. This has been happening for many years and we are only correcting the issues. This has nothing to do with one person, and the person's interest will never be above boxing. Boxing will continue to be part of the Olympic programme," he said through a translator.
"Ever since coming to the helm of AIBA as the interim president about ten months back, I have initiated a number of reforms in the badly-inherited organisation. We are working towards improving the standards of refereeing in international boxing," the 67-year-old added.
The Uzbek businessman was elected AIBA President earlier this month despite IOC's obvious displeasure over his candidature. Rakhimov is said to have links with organised crime and global heroin trade, and is consequently on the US Treasury sanctions list. He has, in past, vehemently denied any such association and has accused the previous Uzbek regime of framing him in false cases.
The 18-year-old Briton became the first qualifier in history to win a Grand Slam when she defeated 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday.
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Amit Panghal (52kg), Manish Kaushik (63kg), Vikas Krishan (69kg), Ashish Chaudhary (75kg) and Satish Kumar (+91kg) had competed at the Tokyo Games.