Express News Service
NEW DELHI: The second Covid-19 wave and subsequent lockdown aside, the biggest challenge for Indian sportspersons at the moment is getting visas to compete in international tournaments, some of which serve as Olympic qualifiers. That is the exact scenario India’s para table tennis players are facing ahead of the Paralympic World Qualification Tournament in Lasko, Slovenia from June 3.
The Slovenian External Affairs Ministry informed TTFI through the tournament organisers on Tuesday that short-term visas are not being granted to Indians at the moment due to the situation in the country. The Embassy office in New Delhi also remains closed due to lockdown here. This might rob Sonal Patel, Wheelchair table tennis player (Class 3), of the chance to take part in the Paralympics. She is right on the borderline in terms of qualification and this is the last qualifying event prior to the Games as all tournaments have been cancelled in the wake of COVID-19.
TTFI have written to SAI, ITTF, the Ministry of External Affairs through president Dushyant Chautala. The deadline for reaching there is June 2. A six-member team are scheduled to go to Slovenia which includes three players — Sonal, Vaishnavi Sutar, Trivendra Singh, one coach and two escorts.
“The ITTF should look into this. We have lodged a protest with them while also asking them to postpone the tournament by a few days. We had already expressed our readiness to comply with all directives.
The situation is on the mend in India and our athletes should not be robbed of the chance to participate in the Paralympics. Hopefully, the External Affairs Ministry can sort out the issue as soon as possible,” TTFI secretary Arun Banerjee told this daily. The tournament was postponed back in May 2020 and rescheduled for June. The LOC had asked for full entry fees upfront from the paddlers which was paid by them from their own pockets. SAI’s sanction had arrived later.
But now that all necessary permissions have arrived, the players are feeling let down. “I’m constantly having to reassure them that we are trying our best. They have been calling from the morning after hearing the visa news. It is a difficult time for them,” Para Table Tennis Promotion Association Secretary Pramod Gangrade informed.
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