The Equestrian Federation of India (EFI) on Saturday clarified that it could not include celebrated rider Fouaad Mirza in the Asian Games probables list because he did not achieve the Minimum Eligibility Requirement (MER).
EFI secretary general Colonel Jaiveer Singh said that Fouaad has sought a direct entry into the long list without meeting the criteria but they are bound by rules and have to be “fair”.
The 31-year-old Mirza while speaking to PTI confirmed that he had approached both EFI and Sports Authority of India (SAI) for his inclusion in the long list, as he does not consider it a backdoor entry since he is not an unknown entity.
Jaiveer contended that selection can’t be based on past performances and having Mirza in the long list, without clearing the trials, would not be fair to the riders who worked hard to achieve qualification.
The last date for sending the long list (names of probables) to the world governing body FEI and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is May 20.
A final list of the participants will have to be submitted by July 15, after the final selection trials.
“Fouaad needed to get an MER. He competed in one event but did not achieve the MER. Before the Asian Games were postponed, he had achieved one MER but was low in the order of merit.
“He had the option of getting MER by competing in many other events available but he chose not to compete in any other competition,” said Jaiveer.
“Fouaad called me on Friday and said looking at his credentials and past performances, his name should be added to the long list but who do I remove from the list to accommodate him,” he asked.
The EFI has picked 12 combinations (six riders, two horses each) for the Eventing discipline.
For the Show Jumping discipline a combination of four riders with three horses each has been finalised and for the Dressage, four riders have been picked with six horses.
The selection was based on riders’ performance at FEI events within and outside India.
Giving his reason for not competing in any other event, Mirza said, “EFI is absolutely right when it says I have not cleared trials. At that time I was competing in World Equestrian Championship, which is bigger than Asian Games and even Olympics. It’s a five-star event and it’s prestigious to compete there.”
Asked why he preferred World Championship over Asian Games trials, he said, “It’s how you look at it. World championship is one star above Olympics. It is the biggest event in our sport.”
“After it was over, I needed time to recover and in Europe I did not have any competition left in that period (from August 15- February 15).”
Mirza said he has no hard feelings for non-selection but added that India should select its best possible team.
“The selected riders have all achieved MERs in India and now they won’t have same horses because during the Asian Games, there are certain regulations regrading the horses’ arrival in China.
“Horses from India are not allowed to enter China due to health issues. What if these riders don’t achieve MER with new horses?
“Will EFI not send any team then? Basically they and I are on the same boat. They could have put me in the long list. I am not someone who is an unknown entity,” he said.
When the same question was put before Jaiveer, he said, “If no rider achieves MER, we will not send anyone. You have to clear final trails. At least we are acting fair, it’s up to the riders now.”
Mirza won a silver medal in individual event, apart from a team silver, at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang.
The EFI’s long list includes Ashish Limaye, Apurva Dabhade, Vikas Kumar, Raju Singh, Rakesh Kumar and Ashish Malik.
“These are our consistent performers. Four of them have achieved 3 MERs in the trials while others have two,” said Jaiveer.
The EFI has been facing criticism for acting in arbitrary manner since its Executive Committee (EC) has been reduced to just three members, and the required quorum is seven.
“We have not removed anyone from the EC. Members had to leave EC because their tenures had ended. So should we stop functioning if quorum is not there?
“The matter is already in court which has already ordered elections and soon we will have a new set of office bearers, the EC and a selection committee,” said Jaiveer.
“People are talking about the absence of selection committee, but actually, the selections are based on riders’ performances at the FEI events, which are judged by reputed international officials. So giving an impression that selection committee of EFI is paramount, is wrong.
“The riders are selected purely on the basis of their performance. The role of selection committee is actually to finalise criteria for selection.”
The IOA’s athletes commission is planning to recommend to the parent body that EFI should be run by an ad-hoc committee.
Jaiveer said, “It is surprising that IOA’s athletes commission chose not to speak either with us or with the riders. If they had, they would have got clarity. It is clear that there is an agenda to malign the image of EFI. The media reports too are one-sided. Is anyone carrying our version.”
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)