Asian Games 2018: IOA picks teams for silat, kurash, sambo but not football
Have you ever heard of pencak silat, Kurash, Sambo and soft tennis? These are the sports in which India will be entering 52 athletes at the Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang from August 18-September 2. But there will be no football — one of the most popular sports in the world in which India are ranked 97.
No wonder the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is furious with Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for snubbing football and picking participants in sports that are making their debut in the Asian Games and about which not only the general public, but even many of IOA’s own members may have sketchy knowledge.
For the record, pencak silat is a form of martial arts popular in Indonesia and nearby countries; kurash is a folk wrestling style popular in Central Asia and promoted by Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, among others, while sambo is a defensive combat style developed by the Russian army early in the last century. Soft tennis is more or less like tennis, only that it is played with softer balls (tennis is a major event and India will be fielding 12 players).
IOA’s rationale for dropping the football team is that it did not finish among the top eight in the previous Asian Games in Incheon, Korea. The men’s team finished 26th among 29 teams. By this yardstick, the women’s handball team was lucky as it had finished eighth among nine participants in Incheon and thus made the grade!
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Besides, India will also be fielding four players each in roller-skating and triathlon.
In all, IOA has suggested a contingent of 524 sportspersons (277 men and 247 women) that will be participating in 36 disciplines.
The Fringe Sports
Pencak Silat: 22 players (13 men, nine women) for this full-body fighting form incorporating strikes, grappling and throwing in addition to weaponry.
Kurash: 14 members (eight men, six women) for this folk wrestling style from Central Asia.
Sambo: Six players (two men, four women) have been picked for this Russian martial arts style
Soft tennis: 10 (five men, five women) for this little-known form of tennis besides 12 for the main form.