Mumbai: The Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI) is set to send its team for an international tournament for the first time, after having struggled for a few months to procure funds to cover the costs that participation in such big events entail.
Deccan Chronicle had reported in November, that the WBFI were looking for financial help to send their team to Bangkok for the u-23 Asian qualifiers.
Now, WBFI president Madhavi Latha has confirmed exclusively to this paper that the federation has been able to procure just enough funds to send its team for the tournament.
“It was a very big challenge for us. Getting these funds was not so easy,” said Madhavi. “We struggled a lot. We raised some amount through crowdfunding, and then we also tried through our contacts.
However, she also said that the WBFI has only been able to procure just enough funds to send its team to the u-23 Asian qualifiers, and that more would be required for the upliftment of the sport in the country.
“We are sending a team (outside India) for the first time since we started this federation,” she said. “It is a great achievement, not only for our federation, but also for the entire country.”
The Indian u-23 side, which is currently training at the Sathyabama University in Chennai, is set to leave for Bangkok later this month. India are set to kick off the six-nation tournament against Australia on January 29.
The Indian side is expected have a difficult time in the Asian Championship, as they have to play against more experienced opponents like Iran, Thailand, Japan, and China.
However, procuring the funds is not the end of WBFI’s problems. The federation is now waiting to get clearance from the airline to carry a large number of wheelchairs to Bangkok.
“We could not purchase the tickets immediately, because we are waiting for approval to carry so many wheelchairs,” said Madhavi.
“Because of this delay, the rate may go up again," she said, adding that a drastic increase in flight rates may result the WBFI not being able to afford the tickets.
“We have so many wheelchairs. We need to take both the sports wheelchairs and the other wheelchairs as well, which will be for regular use.”
The Indian Paralympians (4) procured double the amount of medals than the Olympics athletes (2) in Rio last year.
However, the Indian para-team sports still does not have proper representation in international tournaments.
“In Paralympics, there is no representation in team games from India. It is only in individual games, like athletics or swimming,” Madhavi had told this paper in an earlier interview.
While the WBFI is directly affiliated to the Paralympics Committee of India (PCI), any government funding they get has to come from the Sports Authority of India. (SAI).
PCI has still pitched the case of the para-cagers to the government. While Madhavi remained hopeful about receiving more help from the government, she revealed that the federation is yet to receive word from SAI.
“The PCI discussed our issue with SAI in their previous meeting. We are now waiting for their response,” she said.
This may be a small step for Indian wheelchair basketball, but a good performance could put the country on the international map, setting a precedent for not only the future para-cagers, but also for the future para-team sports athletes from the nation.