Asian Games 2018: Before the start, it’s all but over for India handball squad

By: Express News Service |

Updated: August 16, 2018 2:42:56 am

India lost to Bahrain 25-32 at the Popki Stadium in Jakarta

The Asian Games will be officially declared open on Saturday. Half of India’s 804-strong contingent is yet to check in at the Athletes’ Village. But for the men’s handball team, the campaign is all but over. The team, which was given clearance under dubious circumstances by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), lost its second consecutive match of the preliminary round on Wednesday, which has virtually ended their hopes of qualifying for the main draw. India lost to Bahrain 25-32 at the Popki Stadium in Jakarta, a result that condemns them to the bottom position in Group D. India had lost their opening match to Chinese Taipei 28-38. To stay in medal contention, they will now have to beat Iraq (won 1, lost 1) by a huge margin to overcome their goal difference of —17 and also hope Chinese Taipei go down to Bahrain by an even bigger scoreline. Mathematically possible, but in practical terms India will now compete only for the 9th to 16th places.

For a team that approached the court and entered the draw without informing the Indian Olympic Association, the impending early exit would be disappointing. The IOA had refused to clear the team, saying they did not meet the government’s selection criteria.

As per the sports ministry’s guidelines, teams who were ranked among the top 8 in Asia were eligible to compete in the Asiad. The handball team had finished 12th in the Asian Championship earlier this year, which ruled them out for the Games. But HFI secretary Anandeshwar Pandey used his clout in the Asian Handball Federation to get the team in the draw, with the IOA claiming this was done without their knowledge. Pandey, also the IOA treasurer, then claimed since Australia (who too compete in Asia), Uzbekistan, China, Oman, and UAE had pulled out of the Asian Games, India were ‘effectively ranked seventh, which meant the team met the criteria.’ The federation put forth this argument in front of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, who left the decision to the IOA. The Olympic body’s legal cell saw merit in HFI’s ranking claim, and gave them the green signal to compete.

However, after two defeats in as many matches, they will now hope for a miracle in the final group matches on Friday. And even that might not be enough for them to stay in contention.

Unified Korean women’s basketball team wins Three North Korean basketball players were part of a unified Korean women’s basketball team that defeated Indonesia 108-40 on Wednesday at the Asian Games. South Korean player Park Hyejin said center Ro Suk Yong, guard Jang Mi Gyong and guard Kim Hye Yon joined nine others from the South to form the unified team last month. “The joint training period that we have to go through ahead of the Games was very short and this is certainly a particular challenge for us, but that was not an obstacle because we are all very happy with this unification,” Park said.

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