Allegations of age fraud have rocked the ongoing National Tennis Championship with more than 50 ‘demoralised’ parents submitting a petition with the All India Tennis Association (AITA), demanding imposition of strict guidelines to check the menace.
On Monday, the opening day of the Under-14 and Under 16 Championships, a group of parents filed a petition with the AITA secretary to make the complaint official. Signed by the 53 parents, the petition accused the Federation of conveniently ignoring the age manipulation issue by not even acknowledging the mails of the concerned parents.
The petition does not specify any player but pleaded with the Federation that parents and kids feel demoralised and demotivated and are even giving up the sport. “We expect some concrete action to put an end to this menace within the next few days. The least AITA can do is adopt rules formulated by Badminton Association of India (BAI) to tackle the menace of age cheating,” the petition read.
AITA general secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee acknowledged that such a practice was prevalent and they will soon come up with a solution. “There indeed is a problem, we are aware. We have an executive committee meeting in Kolkata and this issue will be discussed. We will come up with a mechanism, which is acceptable to all,” said Chatterjee.
Asked why AITA was silent for so many year despite being aware of the issue, Chatterjee said it was not the case. “We had introduced the system of age verification for all participants at Nationals via medical Tests in Chennai in the mid 90’s. It was gradually sorted out but again there are many complaints, so we will eradicate it,” he promised.
The AITA while registering a player go by the official documents such as birth certificate issued by a municipal corporation and a copy of the Passport. In case the passport is not available, a bonafide certificate from the School has to be submitted.
A source in AITA admitted that there was no mechanism to check the veracity of the documents at the time of registration and renewal (after two years). “How do you counter such official documents? But we try to do due diligence on our part. If there is any doubt, we immediately demand the original documents from the applicants to check if they have sent us a tampered copy. AITA can’t be blamed for this,” said an AITA official.
Suhaan Karkal, whose son Vardan is competing this year at the Nationals, said the non-deserving players end up grabbing the scholarships and other benefits while the genuine kids do not get a fair chance to prove their talent. “If a 14 year old is playing against a 17-year-old, who stand better chance to win? It should be looked into. It’s very demoralising,” he said.
Iqbal Qureshi, whose son is also competing at the Nationals, said medical Tests should be made mandatory for all participants. “Sports is a career now. We are investing a lot of money and time to make our kids good players. If they get beaten by an unfair manner, the parents and kids will loose interest and it’s not good for the sport,” said Qureshi from Mumbai.
It has also been learnt that AITA had sent out a document to a number of parents in February asking for feedback but has not done anything about it. “Yes, we had received a document from AITA but what have they done,” asked a parent, who did not wish to be named.
“There was also an over-age case involving an Under-12 player and documents, gathered after investigation proved that Siddhi Khandelwal, the winner of the National championship had fudged age. All the AITA did was move her from U-12 to U-14 category. Is it a good deterrent?,” the parent questioned.