A contingent from India reached Lahore on Saturday via the Wagah Border to take part in the championship and the photos surfaced on social media. (Photo Credit: Twitter)
The arrival of an 'Indian team' in Pakistan for the World Kabaddi Championship has kicked up a controversy with the sports ministry and the national federation claiming that they have not given clearance to any athlete for competing in the neighbouring country. A contingent from India reached Lahore on Saturday via the Wagah Border to take part in the championship, being hosted by Pakistan for the first time. The pictures and footage of the Indians arriving in Lahore have surfaced in social media.
The tournament opens on Monday at the Punjab Football Stadium in Pakistan's Lahore followed by some matches which will also be held in Faisalabad and Gujrat. A sport ministry source said the government has not granted permission to any athlete to travel to Pakistan for the event.
"The sports ministry and the ministry of external affairs have not granted any permission to any team, which is mandatory while representing the country at any international event," a sports ministry source told PTI on condition of anonymity. The administrator of Amateur Kabbadi Federation of India (AKFI) Justice (Retd) S P Garg also said that the national body has not cleared any such team.
"We have no information about any Kabbadi team which has gone to Pakistan. No permission was ever granted by AKFI to any team to go to Pakistan and play any Kabbadi match there," he said. "We came to know about it only after information was sought. AKFI does not support any such activity. Legal action may be taken against the defaulters," he added.
Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said that, “No one has given permission to any Kabaddi player to go to Pakistan. Issuance of giving visa is the sovereign prerogative of a country, we have no role in granting visa. We'll talk to the Kabaddi federation on whether it was an informed visit or not.”
The procedure for participation at overseas events is that the national federation will communicate to the sports ministry which in turn will write to the MEA for political clearance and Home Ministry for security clearance, irrespective of whether the government is funding the contingent or not. AKFI is currently being run by administrator, Justice (retd) Garg, after the Delhi High Court had struck down it elections held in 2018.
Pakistan Punjab Minister for Sports Rai Taimoor Khan Bhatti welcomed the 'Indian contingent' at a Lahore hotel. The officials of the Pakistan Kabaddi Federation welcomed and garlanded the Indian players when they crossed into Pakistan from Wagah border from where they were taken in a security convoy to their hotel in Lahore. All the six previous editions of the World Kabbadi Championship took place in India between 2010 and 2019. India have won all six championships, defeating Pakistan in the 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 editions.
Pakistani organisers said that teams from Australia, England, Germany, Iran, Azerbaijan, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Canada are also taking part in the event. The winner of the tournament will get 10 million rupees, while the runner ups will get 7.5 million rupees.