Railway Sports: Setback for Railways’ archers, boxers

PATIALA:  In a major setback to the top archers and boxers serving with the Indian Railways, the Railways has decided against fielding their teams in the senior national tournaments organised by the Archery Association of India (AAI) and the Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) as the Sports Ministry has de-recognised AAI and suspended IBF.

The Railways Sports Promotion Board has informed its players that, being a government institution, it would not allow them to participate in the competitions conducted by these associations. However, if the players get clearance from SAI and the Sports Ministry, the Railways is open to sending them to international tournaments.

The decision has shocked the players concerned. Not competing in the nationals means they wouldn’t be considered for national camps. Besides, it could also hit their chances of getting a promotion as they are awarded promotions on the basis their performance in national and international events.

IBF secretary general Rajesh Bhandari said the Railways’ decision was unfortunate and against the interests of the players and the country.

“When the Sports Ministry is providing all facilities to the IBF, including the venues for the competitions, why is the Railways being so adamant. The government has recently sanctioned a budget of Rs 19.5 crore for boxing, which shows the importance it gives to boxing,” he said.

“During this year’s nationals, the Railways didn’t let their boxers compete. We didn’t include their boxers in the national camp as we had decided to pick campers from national competitions alone. We allowed their girls to join the camp after the intervention of the SAI director general. We warned them if they didn’t allow their boxers to compete next year, we wouldn’t consider them for international tournaments too. How do we know they are the best unless they compete against others?” he said.

AAI secretary general Anil Kamineni, too, agreed with Bhandari. “We have already written to the Sports Ministry to take up the matter with the Railways. The World Archery Federation has clearly told us that there is no age limit or cap on the tenure for holding a particular post. I hope the Railways will take note of it and allow these players to compete.”

Notably, top Indian archers including Dola Banerjee, Rimil Murmu, Bombayla Devi, Rahul Banerjee and Gagandeep Kaur are working with the Railways. Manoj, Dilbagh, Pinky Jangra and Neetu Chahal are the star boxers.

Dola Banerjee said the decision would harm the players. “Last time also, though we were allowed to compete, we were not given any benefits in the form of promotions for our medals in the senior national. This time, too, we have been banned and if this confusion lingers on, it will have hurt India’s chances on world stage. It should be resolved at the earliest,” she said.

Another player, requesting anonymity, however said the associations should refrain from holding nationals till they are recognised. “They should hold open trials to select the Indian teams rather than holding nationals. Why should the players suffer because of their fault?” he asked.

Sports coordinator of archery and gymnastics, Railways Sports Promotion Board, Rajesh Tondon said since AAI, IBF and Gymnastics Federation of India were de-recognised, there was no point in sending teams to their tournaments. “We are not against the players but what is the point in sending the teams if these associations/federations don’t accept the norms.”