ibnlive » Tennis

Dec 26, 2008 at 08:59pm IST

Govt wants to reserve sports for Indians

New Delhi: The burning issue of the day for an Indian sportsperson is what passport does he or she possess. The Government has decided that only players holding Indian passports can represent the country at sporting events.

The move could end the ambitions of tennis players such as Prakash Amritraj and the Uberoi sisters to play for India in events such as the Davis Cup and Federation Cup, unless they give up their American passports.

Shikha Uberoi played for India at the last Asian Games. Her sister Neha aspires to follow in her footsteps soon. Suddenly though, that dream has been snatched away. Both hold a card that says they are a person of Indian origin but that isn't enough.

"I haven't got anything personally, and until receive anything personally my intent is still to play for India," says Neha Uberoi.

But the Sports Ministry's latest notification should leave Neha in no doubt.

An official release says, "The majority opinion has emerged in favour of restricting the representation of India in international sports events to players who are citizens of India. Some federations have not offered any comments on the matter and have indicated that they would adhere to the policy laid down by the Government in this regard."

This leaves players such as Davis Cupper Prakash Amritraj in the lurch. He has played 10 Davis Cup ties for India. The All India Tennis Association (AITA) says it has accepted the Government's guidelines. That means Prakash will have to get rid of his American passport, something Shikha is willing to do.

"Anything to play for India," she says. "It's a passion, a dream and an honour to play... Whatever it takes I'll continue to play (for India)."

The issue is expected to be hotly debated over the coming weeks. The Sports Minister was unavailable for comment but the Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry knows this is a potential hot potato.

"Indian players must have Indian passports," says Overseas Affairs Minister Vyalar Ravi. "What's wrong in it?"

The Sports Ministry also argues that with limited resources at their disposal, this move is only logical.

(With inputs from Amit Bose)