Sri Lanka Squash’s (SLS) selection process for the ongoing Commonwealth Games (CWG) at Birmingham, England, has not been all in good order, but only a problem and a controversy-marred process, where, eventually, a team of four – two boys and girls – were dispatched, but missing out the three-time national champion, Fathoum Issadeen. Yet Issadeen, [...]


Muddle over CWG selection trials – who’s telling the truth?


Fathoum Issadeen

Sri Lanka Squash’s (SLS) selection process for the ongoing Commonwealth Games (CWG) at Birmingham, England, has not been all in good order, but only a problem and a controversy-marred process, where, eventually, a team of four – two boys and girls – were dispatched, but missing out the three-time national champion, Fathoum Issadeen.

Yet Issadeen, who now cries unemotionally, complaints of being victimised of foul play, after she was unfairly sidelined from the multi-sport meet, which would have been her maiden appearance, had she joined.

Early this week, appearing live on a social media platform Issadeen had said, “Couple of days ago, I wanted to give up. What more. This takes a major toll in your mental health”.

According to her, nominations had closed only on June 29, exactly a month away from when the action started at Birmingham, adding that, “Minister Roshan (Ranasinghe) had spoken to me over my cousin’s phone and backed that he was with the player and not with any of the ministers”.

But SLS stated the initial trial had been worked off from March 28 to 30. Another trial was slotted on April 11 and 12. And, the deadline for nominations had been April 30, as announced by the National Olympic Committee.

Despite missing on her maiden CWG outing, she still intends to continue. The 24-year-old said since dropping her, SLS had cut off communication with her.

“First of all, when they removed me from the WhatsApp group, it made me realise they did not want to communicate with me, anymore. Whatever reason it may be, it was very incorrect. I was removed without any explanation. I was also stopped from receiving my medicinal benefits from the Ministry of Sports. When you are a national athlete of the country, one is bound to get these,” she explained from the UAE over a series of WhatsApp voice messages.

“This one trial was for three major events – the CWG, next year’s Asian Games in China and Asian Teams Squash Championships in Korea. Basically, they cut my name from this, which means they have cut my name from everything. Their stance and stand has been very unfair and I don’t understand. Even had I probed, went before them and asked what about me and my name, I could not do anything, because nominations had closed by then,” Issadeen, a player for over a decade now, elaborated.

The Sunday Times, however, reliably learns the next upcoming foreign meet, the Asian Squash Championship, from October 30 to November 4 this year, is in South Korea. She will be eligible to go, provided she proves her potential in the selection trials, scheduled for August and September.

An official from her sports body, refraining to be named due to their policy, speaking to the Sunday Times on their version said, “She did not abide by the rules and regulations provided by the criteria. She appeared for the trials, and finally withdrew. We also gave multiple dates and times as chances to reappear for them. She was clearly conveyed that if she does not appear for the remainder of trial matches, she will not be selected”.

“You have already taken part in the selection trials, winning the first match, but losing the second match. Subsequent to losing the second match, you had requested for medical rest for an injury. It is not possible to entertain your request to enter your name in the final list, unless you complete the remaining trials and secure your place,” the correspondence on this saga reads.

The official reasoning out on her axing explained, “We issued multiple dates and times (three dates). Since she didn’t agree to those, we issued ultimatums till April 20. Suddenly, she notifies on April 11 that she’s going abroad on April 13. After giving time for one-and-a-half months, won’t that be unfair to fellow players?”.

“We followed the existing rules and regulations given by the ministry,” the source stood firm.

She was supposed to turn out in five selection matches. Of the five, she had won the first and lost the second to the national second seed. Before the third match, only half-an-hour ahead of the game, she had mailed notifying her inability to proceed due to an injury.

Though she had been constantly blaming it on the injury, the official from the SLS, based on a diagnosis by a medico from Sports Medicine Unit of the Sports Ministry, told that the injury had not been sustained during the matches but before. Hence, give seven-days of rest, and retry for the selections.

The diagnosis disclosed though, it was not an injury, but stiffness in a muscle. Nevertheless offered fresh dates for a trial, she still had laid out a series of excuses and finally all parties concerned concluded she will be excluded from the squash contingency, added SLS.

Kuwait over Commonwealth Games   

Issadeen had inexplicably and abruptly halted her CWG-deciding trials over an unimportant Ramadan Squash Open Championship, in Kuwait, during the fasting period of Ramadan.

Asked about this she replied, “I was injured. Even though I was injured, I was not after an accident where I had to be bedridden. My dad had some work in Kuwait and Dubai. I went with him. I wanted to practise, but I found out from the players there was a tournament going on. A private tournament with Sri Lankan price money of Rs. 500,000. I said to the female players I’m injured, but they wanted me to come and play. Because if I lose it’s not going to affect my trials, affect world or local rankings. It was after breaking fast and prayers”.

Even they had suggested in case, if she cannot continue, she can get a walkover and recuperate.

“I was very sure that the SLS would allow me to continue my trials after Ramadan. I requested for after the festival and not to put my name without the trials. I was going to return after Ramadan. It was a fun-filled open, plus you get five lacks money. SLS had no say”.

“If I postponed the matches saying I wanted to rest, it would’ve been the month of Ramadan, which I couldn’t play at all. Because it’s very difficult to play in that month. If it’s a tournament, if you lose, it’s fine. If it’s a trial and if I keep losing, I’m out”.

In height of contradiction and suicidal move, she had disregarded an all-important CWG trials and prioritised a Kuwait meet. The former student of Holy Family Convent also took to twitter, launching a scathing attack on the then Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, current Director General of Sports, Amal Edirisooriya, and her own federation for cutting off her name without permission. Edirisooriya speaking to the Sunday Times from Birmingham denied his part.

“I’m not part of it,” he also said over a WhatsApp message.

“I don’t have any powers to include or exclude players for any games. The Selections Committee of the federation should select players and forward it to the National Selection Committee for their recommendation. After that the Honourable Minister gave approval,” he explained.

This saga had also prompted Issadeen to file an injunction court case stopping the female players from going and the final verdict is due on September 12, said SLS. Issadeen, however, contradicted, claiming the case is closed and only she will release the final verdict, thereby, refusing to reveal the verdict.

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