It is not the first time that wrestling trials in India have been marred by off-mat controversy. Supporters of grapplers have on several previous occasions come to blows out of frustration or after getting unfavourable results — remember the 2018 Commonwealth Games trials when fans of Sushil Kumar and Praveen Rana clashed at the IG Stadium.
However on Tuesday during the 2022 Commonwealth Games trials, spectators at the KD Jadhav Hall at the I.G Stadium here witnessed something shameful and unheard even by Indian wrestling’s standard.
A referee was allegedly attacked by a wrestler during a high-profile event. The incident happened right in front of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
Services wrestler Satender Malik allegedly ‘slapped’ referee Jagbir Singh after losing the 125kg final bout. The Air Force wrestler was leading 3-0 with just 18 seconds left in the deciding bout when his opponent Mohit affected a ‘take-down’ move and also pushed Satender out of the mat for another point. However, referee Virender Malik did not award two points to Mohit for the ‘takedown’ move and gave only one point for the pushout.
Mohit then challenged the decision. Senior referee Jagbir Singh adjudicated the challenge with the help of video replays and ruled that Mohit should be given three points (two for takedown and one for pushout). The score thus became 3-3 and remained like that till the end. Mohit was declared the winner since he had scored the last point of the bout.
Satender lost his cool, walked across to Mat ‘A’ on which Olympian Ravi Dahiya and Aman were locked in the 57kg final, went straight to Jagbir, and assaulted him. He slapped him, and Jagbir lost his balance and fell to the ground.
Several fans, officials, and participants were shocked to witness the scene.
The WFI officials promptly imposed a life ban on Malik. However, a WFI official told IANS that as such incidents are increasing and now that a referee has been attacked, the federation needs to look into these matters seriously.
“It is good that President Sahab imposed a life ban on Malik, but the security of referees needs to be discussed. The message is clear from Brij Bhushan that if any wrestler does any such stupid thing then he or she will face harsh punishment like a life ban. But to avoid these things, WFI needs to sit and discuss a plan so that such incidents don’t happen in the future. Let’s be practical, you can imagine if a young wrestler hits a middle-aged referee then what will be the consequences,” the official emphasized.
Despite several calls, the WFI president was unavailable to comment on the matter.
Just to jog readers’ minds, last year in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Deepak Punia’s foreign coach Murad Gaidarov, a 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medallist, had his accreditation cancelled by the International Olympic Committee after he “physically assaulted” a referee.
At that time, WFI was let off with a warning after it apologised. The world body asked what action WFI had taken against Russia’s Gaidarov and the Indian federation said it had terminated his contract.
“Wrestling is a sport which teaches you how to remain calm in tough situations. Wrestlers learn this thing from their gurus in akhadas. What happened today is shameful. After every bout the Indian wrestlers touch the feet of their referees or bow to the jury to show their respect, That’s our culture. Jagbir is a senior referee and has been with Indian wrestling for a long time. I guess the coaches now must teach their protegees to accept defeat when they lose and move on, and train again. A proper psychologist should be appointed and make them mentally strong,” the official added.