New Delhi: The barring of Indian boxers from participating in international meets by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) and the Indian sports ministry on Wednesday has not only further highlighted the mess that Indian sports is mired in, but also left a band of brothers and sisters facing a rocky future.
The Indian Boxing Amateur Federation (IABF) has been banned, both by AIBA and the Indian sports ministry, due to a faulty electoral process. Per the AIBA's directive, no Indian player will be allowed to play in tournaments under its aegis until the ban is revoked. Once again, dirty politicking has shamed the country. This suspension has left India's male and female boxers' futures in disarray. In another battle for power, it is the athletes who have yet again become the unfortunate losers.
The year 2012 ended on a sour note for Indian sports. Within a span of three days in December, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and IABF was suspended by AIBA and for "possible manipulation" of its elections in the wake of a wider Olympic ban. With the first punishment, the best Olympics medal haul ever by the country's sportspersons was undone by opportunistic bosses at the IOA who led to the association's suspension. With the second, the boxing fraternity was left stunned and the dark cloud hanging over the electoral process in sports bodies in the country had turned a greyer shade. In two strokes, sports in India were left reeling.
Less than three weeks into 2013, the latest mess has further highlighted the tone that Indian sport is threatening to travel this year. In all of this, it is the boxers who will suffer most.
For a cricket-obsessed country, India can proudly claim to have a group of talented, world-class boxers capable of bringing glory to the nation. The list of boxers with international success and those brimming with promise - especially with an eye on the 2016 Rio Olympics - is no joke: Vijender Singh, the former middleweight (75kg) world No. 1 and poster boy of Indian boxing; 18-year-old Shiva Thapa, a special talent; 20-year-olds Vikas Krishnan, Devendro Singh and Sumit Sangwan; Manoj Kumar, 26, and Jai Bhagwan, 27; and two India's brightest male prospects in Naveen Kumar and Sandeep kumar, silver and bronze medalists respectively at the 2011 Junior World Boxing Championships.
In women's boxing, the five-time world champion and London 2012 bronze medalist Mary Kom; the Manipur pair of Sarjubala Devi (48kg) and Assam's Minu Basumatry (64kg), both reigning youth world champions; and Mizoram's Lalenkawli (46kg), a reigning junior world champion. These are the cream of a sorority of boxers, proof that the next level is packed with promise.
These are boxers with the potential to give India reason to cheer, to be proud of its athletes. Where the Indian hockey team continues to stumble and deceive, the cricket team marred with inconsistency and instability, the tennis players embroiled with the powers-that-be and their egos and disciplines like archery struggling to compete beyond Asia, boxing - like wrestling - gives India a genuine foothold on the international stage. The next AIBA event is the Junior World Championships in August next year, followed by the senior World Championships in October. These are competitions where India genuinely stands to dominate.
Thus, the aforementioned Indian talents and the next level of male and female boxers deserve better. Their nurturing should not include faulty electoral processes, infighting, and a lack of direction from the bodies that are supposed to look after them. If the organizations cannot look after themselves, what will happen to the boxers?