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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Indian Women Rugby Team’s Eviction From The Upcoming Asian Games Has Been A Big Jolt To The Players

  • IWB Post
  •  August 8, 2018

“Rugby is a relatively young sport in India with just nine years of timeline to trace,” says Vahbiz Bharucha, the captain of the Indian women rugby 15 team. In this regard, the fact that the team stands at number 9 in Asia testifies that it has faired rather decently. Unfortunately, when it comes to Indian Olympic Association the opinions might differ as there is no other way to explain the last minute eviction of the team from the upcoming Asian Games.

To the players’ great dismay, the Indian rugby team will not be heading to the Asian Games, their biggest tournament in four years according to officials of Rugby India. Captain Bharucha confirmed the same to IWB when we reached out to her.

According to her, the entire drill has been “highly disappointing and shocking for everyone.” While in 2014 the team was denied permissions to compete in the Asian games owing to some certain qualification criteria, this time it has happened despite the special permission that the team received from the sports ministry.

“The paperwork was done, almost everything was sorted. Five-six days in the camp and out of nowhere we are told, ‘sorry, you won’t be sent.’ The IOA came up with a revised list of sports that were to be sent to the games at the last moment,” shares Bharucha

She further adds, “The same has happened with the football team too. Imagine, how many athletes have lost a very crucial chance. There are players in the team from various socio-economic backgrounds and some of them left their jobs to participate in the Asian Games. They have literally given up on their bread and butter to follow their passion and look what has come out of it.”

Neha Pardeshi, captain of the women’s rugby 7 team, in a petition that she earlier started on change.org addressed the same issue. She wrote, “Indian sport’s administration is full of interpersonal ego-flexing and point-scoring in between a large cast of self-imagined alpha males. The Asian Games clearances have become a power play between Batra and any current adversaries he may want to take on – whether it is Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore or All India Football Federation boss Praful Patel. The rugby folk and the women’s team became merely collateral.”

Namita Bhoj, a member of the Indian rugby team shared with Scroll how she had to miss out on a job opportunity owing to her commitment to the Asian Games preparatory camp which was held in Kolkata.

She shared, “I was supposed to start a job, as a physical education teacher. But I didn’t take it up because we were at the camp. I wanted to play at the Asian Games but we were culled at the last moment.”

For the team, rugby is anyway a difficult career to sustain owing to no remuneration or match fee, whatsoever. The team wasn’t allowed to travel to Incheon in 2014 because they fell short on some selection criterion. Currently, the team stands nine and were again exempted on the grounds that the teams had to be ranked eighth or higher to be sent for the Asian Games. The team, however, managed to receive a special permission from the sports ministry owing to their consistently improving performance.

The team members had also made to the camp and their training had started when IOA interfered and the team was told that they are out of the Asian Games.

Nasser Hussain, the former captain, and manager at Rugby India said, “It’s really disappointing. At a time when the local game is expanding, we are reaching out to more and more women, we are getting results, this is a huge blow for us.”

Being evicted from the Asian Games selection has certainly dampened the spirits of the Indian women’s rugby team. The players have been hitherto playing purely out of passion and their love for the sport. Instances like these will only distance them from the sport which won’t do anybody any good. Hope the IOA takes heed.

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