By Amanpreet Singh
New Delhi, June 25: The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is set to terminate the services of women's coach Andrew Cook for his refusal to participate in SAI's online sessions for non-payment of salary, a claim refuted by the American.
Cook had left for Seattle after the national camp for women wrestlers in Lucknow was suspended in March owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to WFI, Cook was recently contacted by Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials for attending sessions such as E-Pathshala, but the American allegedly told them that unless he receives his pending salary, he won't attend them.
When he left for the US on March 17, he said that SAI had held back half of his salary.
"This behavior is not acceptable. It shows that Cook works only for salary and is not passionate about Indian wrestling. The SAI officials showed us the screenshots of his refusal messages," WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar told.
"After that, we told Cook to attend sessions and assured him that his salary will be cleared. He did participate in a few sessions but we did not like his behavior.
"We discussed it among ourselves and also asked our wrestlers if they really need him. The wrestlers told us that he is not indispensable, so we have decided to terminate his services with immediate effect. We will send him a letter."
Cook was hired by SAI on the recommendation of WFI in September 2018 and he joined the camp in early 2019.
The American confirmed to PTI that SAI has now cleared his pending dues. He received a full salary for the months of March, April, and May two days ago.
Cook though said he was regularly in touch with the wrestlers and SAI coaches.
"I have been running sessions since the beginning of May for the National Centre of Excellence (NCOE) every day at 6 pm (6:30 am in America). I wonder what they are talking about," Cook said from Seattle.
"Since the beginning of May, I have run sessions five days a week, so l have run about 30 sessions."
SAI coaches, who were also part of those sessions, confirmed that Cook indeed was in attendance.
"He did participate. He regularly guided cadet and junior coaches and sometimes seniors such as Sarita Mor and Pinki also attended his sessions. Honestly, he is a good coach and if WFI or SAI does not want him for seniors he can be kept for juniors. His inputs are good," said an SAI coach who did not wish to be named.
Cook felt that neither the SAI nor the WFI like the fact he spoke to media about his salary issues and has thus paid the price. Cook's contract was until August 2020 at a monthly salary of USD 4500.
The WFI had also sacked men's freestyle coach Hossein Karimi in October 2019, just six months into his tenure, claiming that the Iranian brought with himself a VIP culture that cannot be followed in India.
India is now left with only one foreign coach, Georgia's Temo Gabishvili, who is attached to the Greco Roman wrestlers.
"We have no issues with Temo. He never created any trouble over his salary. He will continue to work with us," said Tomar.
The WFI also informed that SAI has extended the contracts of about 15 Indian coaches, including men's freestyle coach Jagmender Singh, till July 31, 2021.