Qatar coach Falco nonetheless Indian at coronary heart

Vinayak Padmadeo

Today News Online Service

New Delhi, March 22

It must have been a strange feeling for Qatar’s skeet coach Ennio Falco. His former trainees Mairaj Ahmad Khan, Gurjoat Singh Khangura and Angad Vir Singh Bajwa (who trains with Tore Brovold) were going head-to-head against Nasser Al-Attiya, Ali Ahmed AO Ali-Ishaq and Rashid Hamad of Qatar for the team gold.

Falco kept a keen eye on the Qatari men, but he could not help but watch both Mairaj and Gurjaot shoot, too. Eventually, his former team outclassed his current trainees 6-2.

Asked about his divided loyalties, the Italian said he was happy to have contributed to the Indian team. “I am a professional and I am with Qatar now but at the same time I am a sportsperson too so I have to give it to the Indian team,” Falco told The Tribune after the final.

“I am proud of the way Gurjoat has come up. India is lucky to have such a team. I am hoping that my new team beats India in the next team event,” he said with a wink.

Seven-year stint

Falco was with the Indian skeet team for over seven years before switching his familiar Indian blue to the Qatari maroon. The skeet legend, who has won over 50 medals in his career, including gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, resigned from his position with India in October.

He had hopes of extending his India stint and was in discussions with the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and Sports Authority of India (SAI). Eventually, tired of waiting, Falco finally cut the ties in December.

Mairaj summed up Falco’s mood the best. “Both the teams in today’s final were his only! Must have been a weird feeling for him,” the 45-year-old said with a laugh.

Individually, both Gurjoat and Mairaj still count Falco as their coach. In fact, there is a good chance that Falco would be Mairaj’s personal coach until the Tokyo Olympics.

“He has already written an email saying if Qatar does not win a quota, then he will be my personal coach,” Mairaj informed.

Coaching Indians for another Olympics is a big motivating factor for Falco.

“I have spent a lot of time at this range. I had a great time in India and I would like to help the Indian Olympic shooters in the next Games as well as Qatar doesn’t have a quota,” Falco said.

“I didn’t go with a bad feeling. NRAI knows everything and they know I want to help. Qatar federation is open and very sporty so there is no problem,” he added.

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