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News18 » India
4-min read

Punjab Kabaddi Association Says Players Went to Pakistan in Individual Capacity, Cong Demands Probe

The general secretary of Pakistan Circle-style Kabaddi Association, Muhammad Sarvar Butt, also termed the developments as a farce and said only ‘official’ teams from Sierra Leone, Azerbaijan and Iran are in the country for the event.

Ramlal Kondal | News18.com

Updated:February 10, 2020, 6:46 PM IST
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Punjab Kabaddi Association Says Players Went to Pakistan in Individual Capacity, Cong Demands Probe
The 'Indian' kabaddi team at the Wagah border. (Image credit: Twitter@KabaddiIndia)

Chandigarh: The Punjab Kabaddi Association (PKA) on Monday tried to downplay the controversy over the participation of an ‘Indian team’ at the ‘Kabaddi World Cup’ in Lahore.

Denying any role, the association said the players had gone to Pakistan in their ‘individual capacity’ and termed the controversy as ‘unnecessary’.

PKA vice-president Tejinder Singh Middukhera told News18, “There is no such international tournament taking place there. The games are being organised as part of 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak in Pakistan. The players had received individual invitations from Pakistan and went there went there in individual capacity.”

A controversy erupted after the ‘Indian’ team’s coach Harprit Singh Baba hoisted the Indian flag and the players sported a jersey with ‘India’ emblazoned on the back and claimed to represent the country.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and as well as the Union Sports Ministry have expressed their shock at the latest developments.

IOA Chief Narinder Batra reportedly said the team, which reached Lahore on Saturday, is not an official one from the country and hence, it cannot use the word "India" under its banner as it has not been approved by the Amateur Kabbadi Federation of India (AKFI).

Stating that no visa was granted to the Kabaddi players for the World Kabaddi Championship in Pakistan, Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said no one can misuse the Indian national flag or the Indian team's name.

Clarifying that PKA had no role in the row, Middukhera said, “A Kabaddi festival is underway. Let’s understand it. We have recognised tournaments where teams from different countries participate. The Pakistani side has organised an event on the sidelines on the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak, like we did in Punjab. For this, invitations were extended to all sports promoters and players worldwide.”

The PKA functionary said, “It’s the Pakistan government which is organising the games in coordination with the Kabaddi federation. The question of permission arises when an authorised team representing a country visits. In Pakistan, you will find the Indian players playing for teams of other countries. It is true that the Indian Federation hasn’t sent the team. Kabaddi is a ‘Maa-khed’ (mother-sport) of the Punjabis and we have been organising such events regularly. The controversy over it is unnecessary”.

Besides the ‘Indian’ team, Kabaddi teams from Australia, England, Germany, Iran, Azerbaijan, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Canada and the host country are taking part in the event.

The general secretary of Pakistan Circle-style Kabaddi Association, Muhammad Sarvar Butt, also termed the developments as a farce and said only ‘official’ teams from Sierra Leone, Azerbaijan and Iran are in the country for the event.

“Teams from Kenya and the US had refused to attend and the federation president in Canada told me that no such invitation was extended to them. So the Pakistan Federation invited four-five persons from Canada, Australia and the US. And, for the first time in history, a 60-member contingent has been brought from India. None of these 60 individuals have taken permission from the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (the ad hoc body governing the sport).”

“It is being reported these 60 Indian passport-holding players will be incorporated into various other teams from the UK, the US and Canada and the whole event will be presented as a World Cup. The Pakistan Kabaddi Federation has kept senior officials in the dark and the event is a fake one,” he added.

Butt’s assertions were evident from the appearance of the contingents that walked in front of the crowd during the opening ceremony of the event in Lahore on Sunday. The contingents from a number of countries had the presence of Indian players.

The Punjab Kabaddi Association is headed by former rural development and panchayat minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Sikandar Singh Maluka. The association claims to be affiliated with the Punjab Olympic Association and Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI). The AKFI has denied giving any permission to any team.

The ruling Congress slammed the SAD over the controversy and its links with the PKA. State Congress chief Sunil Jakhar said, “Recently, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had nominated three ministers to go to Nankana Sahib to take stock of the situation there. The Union government denied them permission despite the CM making personal requests. Now 60 people have gone to Pakistan. The Union Sports Ministry says it has nothing to do with the team in Pakistan, the Kabaddi Federation is also speaking a similar language.

"A fellow who is a close associate of SAD president Sukhbir Badal and is his election agent (Tejinder Singh Middukhera) took along with him 60 people to Pakistan. This is suspicious. I would like to ask who provided permission to these people. At a time when permission is being denied to ministers, how is it that 60 people got the same? I want to know who are these influential people who helped them get permission."

Citing threats of cross-border smuggling of weapons and drugs associated with a border-state like Punjab, Jakhar demanded an inquiry by a competent authority into the matter.

“Why have these 60 people gone to Pakistan? With what purpose? Have these people gone as couriers of ‘chitta’ (heroin)? These are serious allegations. I would like to request the Union Home Minister (Amit Shah) to hand over the investigation of this sensitive matter to National Security Advisor (Ajit) Doval”.

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| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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