'It's not my choice to be back home. They approved everything before I left as I filled out the forms. I received my March salary and it was only half. When I inquired, they said they are holding my pay'
India's foreign wrestling coaches Andrew Cook and Temo Kazarashvili left the country with only half their monthly salary for the month of March and are wondering if they will be paid their dues along with the remuneration for the current month.
Women's team coach Cook left for Seattle in the USA on March 19 after the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) called off the national camp in Lucknow that was to be held on March 17 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Diminutive Kazarshvili, the 1982 World Champion, who coaches India's Greco Roman wrestlers, also left for Georgia soon after the men's camp in Sonepat was halted.
"It's not my choice to be back home. They approved everything before I left as I filled out the forms. I received my March salary and it was only half. When I inquired, they said they are holding my pay," Cook told PTI from Seattle.
"I have received nothing since I am home. They want us to be on Zoom calls but no pay. How fair is that? This is a joke. They are not honouring the contract," he said.
Cook claimed that he has written e-mails to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials as well as WFI officials.
"There is no response from the SAI leadership but I have been assured by WFI that I will get my dues and the contracts will also be extended till 2021 since the Olympics have been pushed by a year," he said.
WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar confirmed to PTI that salaries of the coaches have been blocked but assured they will be released soon.
"I think the Regional SAI centre officials felt that since camp was called off mid-March, the coaches will be paid half of the salary they get. But we have told them that it's an annual contract and we have to pay them on a monthly basis," Tomar said.
"We had written to them towards the end of March, explaining that salary is not based on number of days at the camp. The delay in payment could be due to the absence of officials who are the signing authority at SAI.
"The coaches have to be paid in foreign currency, so maybe that's why the delay. There is some paper work involved," Tomar explained.
Cook gets a monthly remuneration of US$4500 while Kazarshvili gets US$4000.
Cook said he is desperate to get back to the mat and is in touch with his wards.
"It's getting crazy (sitting at home). I want to get back to the mat. I keep sharing technical stuff with them. Kiran (76kg) is very active. Pooja Dhanda, Sakshi Malik and 10 others are there in the chat," he said.
PTI reached out to Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) CEO Rajesh Rajagopalan for a comment but he did not respond. Rajagopalan is WFI's contact point for their issues.
However, source in the SAI said that issue is being looked into.
"A salary matrix has been proposed to minimise the impact of this issue and is being approved for implementation. The foreign coaches have already returned to their country, but their salary issue will be resolved. There is a holistic approach that is being implemented," the source said.