Special Correspondent

24 disciplines approved

  • The move should help more athletes make the grade
  • Fate of football hangs in the balance

    NEW DELHI: In a major departure from the past, the Union Sports Ministry has diluted the selection criteria for the Asian Games from the `third-place norm' to the sixth-place performance in individual events.

    The criteria were finalised only recently though the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was given to understand earlier that the fourth-place standard would apply. No explanation has been given about the watering down of the criteria, but the Ministry's decision should bring cheer to the IOA and the National federations.

    The Ministry is learnt to have already agreed to India's participation in 24 disciplines in the Doha Games while keeping eight more, including football, in suspense.

    In the coming days, the IOA is bound to press for more, keeping up its practice down the years. Some of the federations, especially in team games, could proceed on their own under the `no-cost-to-Government' formula.

    The Ministry has so far approved teams in the following disciplines: archery, athletics, badminton, boxing, canoeing and kayaking (men), cuesports, chess, equestrian sport, golf (men), gymnastics (men), hockey (men and women), judo, kabaddi, rowing, shooting, squash, swimming, taekwondo, table tennis, tennis, volleyball (men), wrestling, wushu (men) and yachting.

    Those recommended by the IOA and still pending approval are: basketball, bowling, fencing, football, handball, rugby 7s, sepak takraw and triathlon. The Doha Games will have 39 sports disciplines.

    With the Ministry ruling that the `fourth-place norm' would apply in team events, the fate of football, as had been the case in the past, hangs in the balance.

    India, clubbed with Iran, Hong Kong China and Maldives in group `D', is scheduled to play its opening match on November 29. The preliminary football competition started in Doha on Saturday.

    "If the Government does not pay then we are prepared to go at our cost," said the All India Football Federation General Secretary, Alberto Colaco, on Saturday. He added that the federation would require IOA's approval under all circumstances.

    AFI's plans

    The dilution of the norms should help more athletes make the grade. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI), which had drawn up its own criteria without letting anyone know about them, might still stick to its plans, though there is likely to be an argument about selecting more by the sixth-place yardstick. The selection process is still on with trials scheduled till the end of this month.

    The federations are in the dark about the criteria since there has been no circular from the IOA and no intimation from the Ministry.

    In the past, the Ministry had followed the `third-place criteria' that is a performance matching the third-place result of the previous Asian Games or the last Asian championship whichever was better. Concessions were, however, made to accommodate those who were deemed to be "young and promising" though outside the qualifying bracket. The same argument would be accepted this time also in individual events.

    The IOA had adopted the `fourth-place norm' in 2002 while getting a contingent of 321 cleared in the first batch in 19 disciplines. The list swelled to 24 disciplines when India eventually competed in Busan. The final strength of the contingent was never known.

    India won 36 medals including 11 gold in the last Games. Only 12 of the 24 disciplines returned medals, athletics, cuesports, equestrianism, golf, hockey (men), kabaddi, rowing, shooting, taekwondo, tennis, wrestling and yachting.

    More In: SPORT | Today's Paper