The 36-member strong Iranian team, rated among the best at the continental level, might not be able to make it to the 33rd senior and 20th junior Asian Cycling Championship, beginning on March 7, because of visa woes.
The contingent has had to cancel its air ticket to New Delhi thrice because it has not been granted the necessary visa by the Indian embassy.
The Iranian team manager for international relations, Navid Kasirian, said he had no idea why the visa was being held back. “If we don’t get it by Tuesday, the riders’ practice will be severely hampered. It’s unfortunate…we are hoping for the best,” he told HT from Tehran.
Kasirian said the team wanted to reach India at least 10 days in advance so as to train on the wooden track at the IG Stadium, venue for the competition. “Now that opportunity has been lost.”
Iran boasts of some renowned cyclists, including Mehdi Sohrabi, winner of the Asia Tour in 2010 and 2011.
Even as the Iranian contingent makes frantic calls to the organisers, the Cycling Federation of India, to know their fate, the CFI officials are clueless. “We are trying our best to get things sorted out,” said CFI secretary-general Onkar Singh.
The sports ministry, said Onkar, had cleared all the contingents, but it was the home ministry, which had some concern.
Initially, the home ministry wanted to ‘examine’ the details of five nations, including Iran and China. Although the Chinese contingent was cleared, the Iranians, Pakista-nis and Afghanis have yet to get the green signal.
Home ministry spokesperson, KS Dhatwalia, said he could not immediately comment on the issue as the “facts need to be ascertained”.
There are concerns in the CFI that the visa issue might cast a shadow on future international events in the country. With two days to go for the event, Asian Cycling Confederation (ACC), secretary-general, Choi Boo Woong to has started raising concerns.
“Political interference could harm the interest of the sport and halt its growth,” Woong hinted in his latest communication to the CFI on Monday.