New Delhi: Afghanistan players are still waiting for a green light from the ruling Taliban government to participate in the 44th edition of the Chess Olympiad in India.
“Chess players from Afghanistan did apply for visas to take part in the Olympiad but the Taliban government is yet to give approval,” an All India Chess Federation official told PTI on condition of anonymity.
The Taliban which has been in power in Afghanistan since last year has a strong antipathy towards Chess and considers the game a form of gambling.
India which is hosting the Chess Olympiad for the first time is set to witness a record number of countries (187) taking part in the competition.
“As of now, 343 teams from 187 countries will take part in the event, including Pakistan. The visa procedure for each athletes has been taken care of as well,” Bharat Singh Chauhan, Secretary, AICF, said.
“However, as far as Afghanistan’s participation is concerned, it looks unlikely because of the political situation in the country. Everything will be clear in a couple of days.”
Meanwhile, chess players from Kosovo will participate under the FIDE flag because of India’s current stance on the disputed nation, sources in the AICF said.
In 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia, something which India disapproves of completely.
Government played a pivotal role: Abhijeet Gupta
Grandmaster Abhijeet Gupta, who is part of the Indian squad at the Chess Olympiad, hailed the government’s assiduousness in promoting the sport in the country, especially at a time, when a lot of youngsters are taking a keen interest in it.
“Honestly, I have never seen such a keen interest from governments in the past when it comes to promoting chess. This is unprecedented in every possible way,” Gupta said.
“From organising the historic torch relay which was truly one-of-a-kind to launching a commemorative stamp now, it will boost the morale of the Indian chess contingent taking part in the event this year.”
Gupta said that the 44th Chess Olympiad will be held at a time when the game has caught the attention of hundreds of youngsters in the country, as of many of them were forced to stay back home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One good thing that COVID-19 has done to chess is that it has made the sport immensely popular to tens of thousands of youngsters who are now taking it seriously. Schools and colleges were closed for a long time and the work-from-home provision meant these youngsters took a keen interest toward chess,” Gupta said.
Commemorative stamp launched
The Government of India on Wednesday launched a commemorative stamp ahead of the 44th Chess Olympiad that is slated to be held in Chennai from 28 July to 10 August.
“It is a momentous occasion for Indian sports. To have a stamp issued for a competition like Chess Olympiad shows the government’s wholeheartedness in promoting chess big time in the country,” said Dr Sanjay Kapoor, President, All India Chess Federation.
“One must thank the Tamil Nadu government too for deciding to host this event on a war-footing. A lot of ground work are needed to execute an important event like this and the state government did exactly that with utmost sincerity.