India’s Italian national skeet coach Ennio Falco has resigned after his request to have a say in national team selection was rejected by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI). “It is time to think and move on,” the 1996 Atlanta Olympics champion said from Capua, Italy. “I’ll be joining the new team (Qatar) shortly.”

It is unusual for a foreign coach who has been with India for six years to raise an issue backing the selection of a lower-ranked shooter as it clashes with NRAI’s policy of going by ranking, even for the Olympics. India has earned a record 15 quota places, including two in shotgun events, for the Tokyo Olympics next year. The spots are for the country, not shooters.

Although Falco put in his papers last month, NRAI has been trying to persuade him to stay. According to a national coach familiar with the development, he also wants a salary hike. “If he doesn’t have a right to select a shooter in the team then his salary should be 2000 euros (approx. R1.75 lakh) per day, which would be thrice his current numeration of 600 euros (approx. R52,000) per day,” the coach said. His contract is to work 160 days in the year.

Falco’s contract, renewed in August, and runs till September 2021. Though NRAI hasn’t accepted the Italian’s request, with the Olympics eight months away, his presence will benefit the team, chief shotgun coach Mansher Singh said. “We shouldn’t lose him,” he added.

In the 2019 Olympics qualifying cycle, India earned two quota places in skeet through Angadvir Singh Bajwa and Mairaj Ahmad Khan. Bajwa also trains under Norway’s Tore Brovold. Khan and others work only under Falco. Falco said reshuffling the national team was important to give exposure to upcoming shooters, praising a third member in the national mix, Sheeraz Sheikh.

The Italian criticised India for using national trials to select the squad. “It might be important for the national federation, but a change in policy is a must. If a good shooter misses one target, it could make or break his career. It can impact the job of the coach too. In my country, there are no trials,” he said, emphasising on a larger role for the coach.

NRAI president Raninder Singh didn’t respond to calls and text message. An international shooter said Falco was a good coach, but a policy change would be difficult. “It’s a measurable sport. A shooter on the fringes, even if the difference between the top and fourth or fifth ranked is marginal, can’t get preference,” the shooter, who did not wish to be identified, said.

The second phase of the pre-Olympic camp for shotgun, originally planned from November 26 at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Ranges, will start on December 4. “The delay is due to air pollution in the Capital,” an NRAI official said.

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