Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju has played down the controversy surrounding MC Mary Kom and Nikhat Zareen. The two Indian boxers fought a trial bout for the Olympic qualifiers on Sunday, which Mary Kom won by a split 9-1 verdict.
After the bout, though, Mary Kom refused to do the customary handshake with Zareen and that went on to become a major talking point.
Mary Kom and Zareen and have been involved in a bitter feud for a while now. It all started when the Boxing Federation of India, in a departure from its policy, considered giving Mary Kom direct selection for Olympic Qualifiers. Zareen’s protest led to insinuations that Mary Kom was avoiding a clash with her, something that left the six-time world champion furious.
In her defense on Sunday, Mary Kom said that she thought it was no ‘big deal’ that she chose not to shake hands with Zareen.
“I don’t like this. You [Zareen] drag my name into an unnecessary controversy and then you try to posture. Yes, I didn’t hug her, what’s the big deal? I did not start this, I never said ‘I will not fight you in a trial’. Why did you drag my name [into this]?” she said.
She added: “I am also a human being. I get irritated too. Can’t I get angry when my credentials are questioned like this? And, this wasn’t the first time. It has happened so many times with me despite the fact that no other Indian boxer has achieved what I have achieved.”
Zareen, though, said she was ‘hurt’ by Mary Kom’s actions. “I did not like her behaviour after the bout. I expected that, as a senior boxer, she would appreciate my efforts. I felt hurt but I don’t want to comment anything more. She also swore at me after the bout, but it’s okay,” she said.
Now, Sports Minister Rijiju has weighed in and said that ‘too much of an issue’ is being created of the matter.
“Too much of issues are created on this!” he tweeted. “Mary Kom is a legend who has achieved what no other boxer has ever achieved in the World Amateur Boxing. Nikhat Zareen is an amazing boxer who has the potential to follow the footsteps of Mary Kom. India is proud of both of them. Period.”