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Pacific School Games row: ‘Coaches left for India as girls battled for life’

Nitisha Negi was part of the 150-member contingent sent by the School Games Federation of India (SGFI) to participate in the Pacific School Games from December 3-9. She drowned at the Glenelg beach in Adelaide

other sports Updated: Jan 03, 2018 09:26 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pacific School Games,Nitisha Negi,Sushil Kumar
Nitisha Negi (back row, third from right) died in Adelaide during Pacific School Games(HT Photo)

Schoolgirl Nitisha Negi’s death from drowning at the Glenelg beach in Adelaide, South Australia, on December 10 has exposed the callousness of officials accompanying sports contingents abroad.

Nitisha was part of the 150-member contingent sent by the School Games Federation of India (SGFI) to participate in the Pacific School Games from December 3-9. Besides the girl’s football squad, of which Nitisha was a part, swimming, netball, softball, hockey and netball teams were also sent.

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Interestingly, the SGFI is headed by two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar.

A member of the team alleged that indifference on the part of officials was responsible for Nitisha’s death. “The men’s coach of the team (Virender Singh) was too busy enjoying life. He had time to drink and make merry but didn’t bother to appoint team captain or chalk out strategy for matches. We were all shocked at his attitude as he didn’t accompany us to the venue for the three days,” the player said on the condition of anonymity.

The player alleged that the coach had returned home on December 11 even as four girls --- who too came perilously close to drowning --- recuperated in a hospital.

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Virender, an employee of the Delhi Education Department, denied he had gone to Australia. “Speak to my department,” he said.

The football team manager Leena Vyas, also a Delhi Government official, refused to comment, saying she wasn’t authorised to speak.

“Since it was their maiden international tour, almost all the girls were a bit scared. The anxious players, however, started moving out as they settled down. We went out in small groups to explore the city. It was fun,” said a member of the team.

On December 10, a day after the event got over, the Indian contingent, including the girl’s football team, visited Glenelg beach in the evening. Five girls, including Nitisha, ventured close to a section of the beach marked ‘hazardous area’. According to a player, they were only in knee-deep water when suddenly the water level rose alarmingly. Members of the boy’s hockey team and local surfers rushed to rescue them but could not save Nitisha. Her body was found the next day. “We were rushed to hospital in an unconscious state; we came to know about Nitisha’s death later on,” said one of the rescued players.

The manager of the girl’s football team flew back to India on the morning of December 10 even though the team flight was on December 11. “We don’t know why her flight was scheduled earlier,” said another team member.

Sources in the Delhi Education Department said that she wasn’t clear about her role during the trip.

Gaurav Dikshit, an official of the Maharashtra Education Department responsible for the travel itinerary, said he was not authorised to speak on the subject. Dikshit, it is learnt, had flown to Adelaide after the girl’s hockey players had alleged ill-treatment.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Government, which sponsored 90 students, including the girl’s football team, has also initiated an inquiry. “Those conducting the inquiry haven’t yet met the four girls who had a narrow escape,” said Shyam Verma, whose daughter was a member of the football team.

First Published: Jan 03, 2018 09:25 IST

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