NEW DELHI: The World U-23 Wrestling Championships has always been a happy hunting ground for Indian grapplers. But this time, the country’s top wrestlers will miss the tournament as the Spanish embassy denied them visas for the October 17-23 tournament to be held in Pontevedra. A senior embassy official said in the letter that he had doubts about “the purpose and conditions of their intended stay” in the northwestern Spanish city.
It is the first time in the competition’s six-year history that the Indian team will not take part in the prestigious encounter, which attracts a world-class field. During the 2021 edition of the Belgrade tournament, indian wrestlers earned five impressive medals, including Shivani Pawarhistoric silver in the women’s 50kg category, to cap the country’s most successful outing at the event since its inaugural edition in 2017.
A 45-member Indian contingent, including 30 wrestlers in the men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman categories, has been selected by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for Worlds. Among the big names was the 53kg female wrestler Antim PanghalIndia’s first U-20 World Wrestling Champion, Cadet World Champion Sagar Jaglan (74kg Men), Asian Cadet Bronze Medalist Reetika Hooda (72 kg women) and World Junior silver medalist Bhateri (65 kg women), among others.
According to the assistant secretary of WFI Vinod Tomartheir Schengen visa applications were submitted to the embassy on October 4 in the “normal” category and tickets were booked accordingly for their departure on October 16. However, the embassy informed them of the cancellation of their visa forms – with the exception of nine of the wrestlers who have already left for the event – because they could stay longer in Pontevedra.
The WFI shared the visa application of Antim, who was denied the visa for a frivolous reason. “The Spanish Embassy in New Delhi has reviewed your application and the visa has been refused. The decision is based on the following grounds: the information provided regarding the justification of the purpose and the conditions of the intended stay were not There are doubts about your intention to leave the territory of the Member State before the expiry of the visa”, reads his request, signed by Helena Escorial López, head of the consular section of the embassy from Spain to India.
Speaking to TOI, Tomar said the embassy wanted them to apply for visas taking advantage of “premium lounge services” which would have made the whole trip “abnormally expensive”. “This is nothing but authoritarianism on the part of the embassy. We will never send our wrestling teams to Spain again in the future. We will write to United World Wrestling (the body world leader in wrestling), asking them not to grant any major international tournament to the Spanish Wrestling Federation. We will file a formal complaint to the UWW for the embarrassment that Indian wrestlers have had to endure,” Tomar said.
“They wanted us to apply through their premium lounge services. But why should we? This is not the first time for the Indian team to travel on the Schengen visa. U23 Worlds with multiple Schengen visas.Why weren’t they allowed to participate in the tournament?The embassy doubted our wrestlers’ intention to stay longer and not come back from Spain.It’s a joke .If that had been the case, they wouldn’t have come back sooner either,” he added.
Tomar said that of the 45-member contingent, only nine wrestlers made it to Worlds without any coaches or support staff with them. “Aman Sehrawat (men 57 kg), Ankush Panghal (women 50 kg) and Mansi Ahlawat (women 59 kg) and six Greco-Roman wrestlers will be in the game. The others will miss a great opportunity to become world champions”, a- he added.

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