If you want to play for India, pay for India — that is what some of the country’s best swimmers have been told.
Players who’ve qualified for the Asian Age Group Swimming competition to be held in Tokyo next month may not make it to Japan if they fail to raise Rs 86,500 each in the next few days.
<b1>The Swimming Federation of India — on paper — has asked each player’s state association to pay up but for some reason, the letter, in many cases, has been directly handed over to players through their coaches.
On Tuesday evening, players at the preparatory camp in Pune were each handed a copy of the letter addressed to their respective state bodies, asking them to fork out the above amount as a pro-rata contribution, failing which the player would not be sent for the event.
Some players have been told the money will be reimbursed once the government clearance comes.
What has angered the swimmers’ parents, however, is that the letter clearly mentions that state associations should make the payment, not the players.
"If they are threatening action against state associations who, in any case, will ask the players for the money, why did they directly hand the letters over to the players,” said a father of one of the swimmers, who did not want to be identified.
"Also, the contribution is to be on a pro-rata basis, which means the entire money may not be reimbursed. We cannot afford to raise the money and, that too at such short notice,” he added.
The letter dated July 12, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times, clearly states, "Member units are requested to refrain from collecting the prorate contribution from the players and advised to raise the funds through other sources to help the players. Units are hereby cautioned, any such infringement of this directive will be viewed seriously by SFI and appropriate action will be taken against the unit concerned."
Interestingly, the Tamil Nadu state association informed its players about the letter immediately and has been helping them raise money through the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu. But Maharashtra state secretary Kishor Vaidya denied even getting any letter. "And even if we had got such a letter we do not have the resources to raise so much money," said Vaidya, who pointed out that there are 13 members from the state in the squad.
Another parent said he was willing to raise the money as his child's career was at stake but said that a "direct approach" from the SFI would help. "If they give it to us in writing we can at least approach sponsors or take a loan. But with no written documentation and no receipt for money paid, it gets difficult."
National coach Pradeep Kumar admitted that the coaches had conveyed the request for money to the players but insisted the money would be reimbursed. "We are awaiting government clearance and cannot wait to make the hotel bookings and other provisions. So the federation asked the players for the money, it will be reimbursed."
However, asked if players who failed to pay up would be withdrawn from the squad, he declined comment, saying that was for the Federation to decide. Attempts made to contact Federation secretary Virendra Nanavati (in Rome for the World Swimming Championship) were unsuccessful.