Players should put country first, says Maken

Last Updated: Jun 22, 2012, 17:52 PM IST

New Delhi: India`s sports minister Ajay Maken Friday appealed to the bickering tennis stars Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna to stop the infighting and participate at the London Olympics putting the country first.

Maken said it was not the prerogative of the government to come up with the solution. Instead he put the responsibility squarely on the All India Tennis Association (AITA) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to find a fix.

"I appeal to all players to play and put the country first," said Maken. "If the government interferes, it will set a bad precedent. If any intervention is needed, it should be from the IOA."

Earlier, Bhupathi, after being paired with Paes, had written to the ministry seeking its intervention in the matter. It had prompted Maken to demand an explanation from the AITA.

Maken though said: "We never intended to say anything to the AITA. We just told them to take a decision keeping in mind the national interests."

"It is not the job of the minister or the ministry. We don`t participate in the selection process, so we cannot interfere. It is not proper and this sanctity should be maintained."

Answering a question on whether Bhupathi and Bopanna should be taken to task for holding the country to ransom, Maken opined: "The federation and IOA are empowered. They have to decide whether any punishments should be given."

AITA Thursday came up with a final decision to send two men`s doubles teams to the Olympics, giving in to the demands of Bhupathi and Bopanna and pairing the two. Paes was given a new young partner in Vardhan.

However, Paes slammed the AITA for buckling under pressure and threatened to withdraw from the Olympics. In an effort to not alienate Paes, AITA said that if Sania Mirza gets a wild card, she would have to pair with highest ranked Indian and nothing would change that decision.

IANS