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Gujarat: Even 2 Months After 30 Muslim Sports Coaches Were Fired, Termination Reason Remains Unknown

The 30 Muslim sports coaches who have been terminated are qualified in training athletes and sportspersons in judo, volleyball, basketball, athletics, and badminton. All of them belong to various districts from Gujarat.
A Judo coach trains students at a government sports facility in Gujarat. Photo: Special arrangement

New Delhi: On February 19, Mohd. Shoeb Qureshi, a judo coach from Modasa town in Gujarat, received a phone call from his employer at EduSports, a sports education company that supplies sports educators to various government institutions across the state. He was informed that his services were no longer required.

Confused and anxious, Qureshi reached out to other coaches and trainers employed at various government institutions across the state, only to find that at least 30 other trainers had also received calls from their sports companies terminating their services.

However, a common factor was that all the terminated coaches were Muslims.

Qureshi, who had been transferred to Ahmedabad’s District Level Sports School (DLSS), from Patan, told The Wire several other private companies such as KinderSports, EduSports, TSG, Imperial International Sports Academy had taken similar steps against people belonging to the Muslim community.

The 30 Muslim sports coaches who have been terminated are qualified in training athletes and sportspersons in judo, volleyball, basketball, athletics, and badminton. All of them belong to various districts from Gujarat.

Qureshi also explained how the entire matter unfolded without their consent. “Some of us received phone calls, termination emails telling us that our dues will be paid according to company policies since the company was terminating us. They have paid our dues, but we have no reason to understand this situation,” he said.

“The students I train have won medals at the state and national level. They had no reason to fire us, they still don’t. I have received information that a Muslim official at a DLSS facility was involved in workplace sexual harassment. But that still doesn’t mean they will fire all Muslims,” Qureshi argued.

A female hockey trainer, who is also among those who were fired, finds it uncomfortable to understand as to why female coaches were also fired. The trainer, currently in Amreli, has been training both male and female hockey players for seven years now. She is confident of her work ethic and finds it unreasonable to be fired like this, she said.

“All the higher-ups at DLSS Amreli appreciate my talent and performance as a trainer. They too do not know the reason for terminating my contract. This is all unfortunate,” she said.

Sarfaraz Sodagar, another coach from Patan, who had been training judo players for years now was also removed.

Sodagar, 36, who was associated with KinderSports, believes that the discrimination against Muslims is out on display for everyone to see, through this termination. “Muslims are often looked down upon because of illiteracy, but what is happening to us? We are degree holders in various sports and teaching courses. Who is listening to us?” Sodagar told The Wire.

In the Sabarkantha district, Sheikh Vasim, a basketball trainer, is also clueless like many others who were abruptly terminated.

Vasim, who had served as a trainer for seven years now, was astounded at the way his own company was avoiding his calls. “All 30 of us were so stressed, we did not know why things were happening this way. But only Muslim coaches, both men and women, were dropped from schools,” he said.

All those fired have been provided advance salaries since they have been terminated from the employer’s side without any reasons. But the coaches who spoke to The Wire ascertained that the manner in which the matter unfolded was deeply unfair, leaving them without jobs.

With 30 Muslim coaches and trainers from across the state being terminated with no reason given, The Wire reached out to Vivek Kotwal, regional head, KinderSports, to understand why the coaches were fired.

Kotwal was not willing to speak on the matter but said that there was no statement from the company to address the issue.

On March 18, the coaches have also written to Harsh Sanghavi, minister of state for home, industries, transport, youth and sports, on this matter. However, they have not received any response yet.

Salman Shaikh, a coach who previously worked at KinderSports, said that several coaches were not willing to protest or speak to media houses because they were afraid of unemployment in future as their existing jobs had been taken away.

“We have tried our best, pleaded to employers, pleaded to the schools we work at, using the kind of work ethics we follow and the laurels we have brought to our respective institutions, even written to the sports minister, but being Muslim, nothing helps,” Shaikh said.

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