Indian kabaddi team faces risk of ban due to delay in holding election


India, the nerve-centre of international kabaddi, faces the risk of being banned from fielding a team due to administrative reasons.

The court administrator-run Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) has been threatened with suspension while the national team could be banned by the world body. This is due to the continued inability of the national federation to conduct its election since August 2018.

The International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) has sent four letters since May 2022 to Justice (Retd) SP Garg, who was appointed as the administrator of the sport by the Delhi High Court in September 2018.

“I would like to inform you that this issue (AKFI election) will now be put up for a decision in the forthcoming meeting of the IKF Executive Board, which could result in suspension of AKFI as well as non-participation of Indian Kabaddi Team in any future events of IKF and AKF (Asian Kabaddi Federation),” read a letter sent to the AKFI administrator by the world body on December 1, 2022.

The court had ordered the administrator to finalise AKFI’s electoral college and hold elections for the federation. But in September 2019, the election was paused when a player from Tamil Nadu, AC Thangavel, moved the High Court claiming that the list prepared included members who weren’t eligible to vote. Since then, the matter has remained in court and four years have passed without an election being conducted.

The IKF had earlier sent a letter on October 31 and demanded an answer in this regard from the administrator by November 30. That letter stated that the national team would not be allowed to participate in the Hangzhou Asian Games and the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Thailand if there was no progress towards holding the elections.

Justice Garg has said that a decision in the matter has been made and that the court will announce its decision soon.

“The elections have already been stayed by the High Court. Even if anyone wants to do anything, they can’t do it. Writing a letter to us is useless. We are ready to conduct the election as per the order of the High Court. The order has been reserved and the verdict may come any time. We will follow the directions as per the court,” he told The Indian Express.


Asian Games participation at risk

But the delay has resulted in the sword of suspension hanging over the national federation, while also risking India’s ban from the sport which it claims to have invented. The development assumes even more significance with the Asian Games scheduled later this year in China. Kabaddi is not an Olympic sport yet and the Asiad remains the pinnacle of the game, as far as multi-sport events are concerned. India won the bronze medal in the men’s event and silver in the women’s section at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. It was the first time the national men’s team couldn’t win the gold since the sport was introduced at the Asian Games at the 1990 edition in Beijing.

Kabaddi is yet another sport in India that has seen its Indian federation being pulled up by the world body. The All India Football Federation and the Indian Olympic Association were also under fire from FIFA and the IOC respectively for not being able to hold their elections.

In the case of the AIFF, the appointment of a Committee of Administrators by the Supreme Court was considered to be ‘third-party interference’ by FIFA, which led to a temporary ban on the organisation. The ban was lifted after the court dissolved the CoA. In the case of the IOA, elections were held recently with former track queen PT Usha elected president.

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