This is the BFI election coming up on December 18th. Your first reaction to Mr. Ashish Shelar competing against you?
It is a democratic country. They are most welcome to compete.
Many see it as a quarrel between many BJP figures. When he is a BJP politician, you share a cordial relationship with several BJP leaders…
Truth be told, I don’t want to comment on the political angle. Finally, it’s all about the sport. It is another matter that sports administration has always been less about sports and more about politics. That’s what we’ve been trying to change for the past four years and I’ll keep doing it. All federations should think of athletes first.
My policy is ‘athlete first’. I was constantly wondering at federation meetings, and it was not just about boxing, but about all sports, administrative matters, political matters and how people would travel, what hotels they would stay in, what perks they were given to different people.
Over the last four years, we have considered our boxers the most important ones. We made sure that they stayed in comfortable accommodation, they traveled comfortably, they got proper training, all camps around the country were rejuvenated, they got proper food and nutrition in these camps so they could go to international competitions and bring medals to the country.
This is a record medal at the international level over the past four years. You can tell me anything, but you can’t compete with numbers.
You see that Mr Jay Cowley, the General Secretary of the BFI, only mentioned Mr Shelar’s name and supported him. So the fight will be between the officials within the union.
I’m here for boxing and boxers. My earnings depend on being president of the union; I have business to run. I have no vested interests, no politics to play. I have no interest in traveling abroad with the team, getting a free ticket, free hotel and things like that. Today, the Government of India considers boxing to be one of the three preferred sports because of the work we have done. All sports ministers in charge of my tenure so far have said that BFI is the best sports federation in the country.
The rival faction alleges that BFI has a deficit of Rs 7-8 crore due to the $ 5 lakh penalty imposed by AIBA for not hosting next year’s men’s world championship…
That problem has been well resolved with AIBA. There are no penalties pending in the BFI. In this case, there is also some AIBA politics. When a country rises in sport, so does politics. However, these matters have been resolved amicably.
Suppose you are re-elected, what areas do you focus on and make sure they are resolved?
Grassroots Development I’m really excited. In a country of 130 crore people, we simply cannot afford 5 to 6 thousand registered boxers. It makes no sense; You need to get more people. Boxing is a terrifyingly empowering sport. You don’t need that much money to play. We need to get more children down to participate. The second issue is to win many more open championships. The third thing I want to become is more emphasis on sports science.
India was to host the Asian Boxing Championship, but was postponed due to the Kovid epidemic. What is its renewal?
We expect to have a championship in May next year, but it all depends on what Kovid’s status in the world is and how things will work out.
The next 7-8 months will be very crucial in keeping track of the Tokyo Olympics. What is your roadmap for boxers going to the Olympics?
We have already started in that direction. We sent our team to Europe. Boxers participate in training and championships there; They are returning to good condition. We leave no stone unturned to make sure they get the best practice in the world. When they return to India – if the situation is good – we expect some of the world’s top teams to come and join our boxers. Hopefully, the Asian Championships will also be held. Then we send the boxers 20 days in advance to Tokyo so that they can acclimate themselves.
Your message to the opposition?
We are one country, one team. We all need to get together for the sport of boxing.