Indian Hockey’s Mess Getting Messier
This can only happen in India. Punjab Hockey Gold Cup was held in Chandigarh last year and just think where the national team in preparation for the tournament went— Argentina. Again last Junior World Cup Hockey was held in Singapore-Malaysia, and where did Indian team go for training-Argentina. Just before the end of the year, there was another tournament in Argentina Champions Challenge Trophy-the winner of the tournament qualifies for the prestigious Champions Trophy India finished third in it and failed to qualify. What Indian achieved by going all over to Latin American
country-thrice in a year, big zero? They failed to win Punjab Gold Cup, flopped in Junior World Cup and ended third in the Champions Challenge.
All in all, in 2009, apart from Argentina, Indian hockey team flew to every continent on the planet, except Antarctica or North or South Pole. But when the players sought Rs 4.5 lakh each as ‘dues’ for their showing, and demanded a graded contract system, increase in their daily allowance during camp days and match days as well as match fees; HI (Hockey India), rejected their demands saying it has no money.
However, the same HI had money for the whole lot officials to accompany the teams on tours abroad. The travels for exposures, which Indian team under the pretext of preparing for the World Cup took, ended in total disaster as team ended nowhere near the top in the championship despite being the host. Thus the performance in the World Cup and in the ongoing tour of Europe has proved, if proof was indeed needed, that Indian hockey has a long way to go before it can hope for a podium place in a big international competition. The globetrotting Indian players and officials, who are responsible for arranging such tours, may have accumulated huge “frequent flyers” points at tax-payers expenses but their shoddy showings have further shrunk their support base and disheartened the fans who were hoping against hope of happy tiding.
After the World Cup, India did manage to emerge as joint winner with South Korea in a depleted Azlan Shah Tournament in Malaysia and that was hailed as sign of revival of the game by the officials who have been milking it since Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and later Hockey India started running its affair.
Interestingly, in the four-nation tournament in Germany last week, India lost to Holland 6-3, Germany 5-3 and drew with lowly Japan 4-4 and to finish at the bottom. Early this week in the first test against low ranked Belgium, India were held to a 3-3 draw. So despite repeated foreign jaunts Indian hockey is showing no sign of revival. But the anarchy in the game’s set up has come as a God-send opportunity for some officials, who are making full use of the chaos by planning out trips fully aware of the fact that they will not be answerable to anybody. In any case it is tax-payers money and who has ever bothered about it. But looking at the game and its decline, it can be said that time has come for Indian hockey to get out of its Pakistan-centric attitude. It may be a feel good factor when we beat our arch rivals—that is what happened in the opening match of the World Cup. What followed, after that win, need no repetition here.
After World Cup, India is hosting the Commonwealth Games and unfortunately in hockey competition, Indian men’s team is in a very tough pool as they are clubbed with defending champion Australia, Pakistan and Malaysia in five-team Pool A. The fifth team is Scotland. Pool B comprises of England, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and Trinidad & Tobago.
The Indian women team which created history by winning Gold in 2002 at Manchester also is in for a rough time. They are in Pool A along with Australia, South Africa, Scotland and Trinidad & Tobago. In Pool B teams are: England, New Zealand, Canada, Malaysia, and Wales.
In November, Asian Games are to be held in China. And it is very crucial for India. Failure to win there will mean India will not get automatic entry in the 2012 London Olympics. As thing stand it looks very tough challenge. In 2006 at Doha, India failed to win an Asian Games medal for the first time in history and the country was deprived of automatic entry in the Beijing Olympiads. And then worst happened, in 2007 India failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, the first time in 80 years and from there on crisis started brewing in the IHF (Indian Hockey Federation). As on the field, poor showing were not enough, there seemed to be no respite for the game off the field too. There is strange spectacle of two federations claiming to be the legal bodies and asserting that only they can run the game in the country. KPS Gill led Indian Hockey Federation, got a tremendous boost when Delhi High Court nullified IOA’s decision to dissolve it.
HI on the other hand maintains that it is a legal body being recoganised by the World body, FIH, IOA and Asian Hockey Federation (AHF). While Gill led IHF, conducted National Championship in Bhopal, HI announced the July 28 as date of elections of its office bearers, before sending team to Europe. “We are the legal body” asserted HI’s Narinder Batra “IHF was dissolved way back in 2000, so where is the question of its revival? IHF was replaced by Indian Hockey Confederation (IHC) and
now HI is the sole running authority of the game in the country.”
“These elections are going to be a farce,” was the reaction of Indian Women Hockey Federation (IWHF) secretary Ms Amrit Bose, “What legality is Batra talking about. If IHF had ceased to exist in 2000, what he was doing in IHF till 2007, why he had challenged Mr KPS Gill’s election for the nonexistent body? Who has given them the right to amend the IHF/IWHF or even IHC’s constitution? There has been no GBM’s of these bodies, how can State Olympic Association’s (SOA) dissolve the local units and form units for HI,” she asked. Ms Bose also rose an important point, “If the elections to the HI are going to be as per the government guidelines, then how come Ms Vidya Stokes is eligible to contest for President of HI. She is above 70 years of age—government guidelines stipulate 70 year age limit—and She has already been president of IWHF for more than four terms.”
Veteran Olympian Pargat Singh, who has declared his intentions of contesting the elections, however is mystified at government’s attitude. “First it (government) told HI not to go ahead with the election and now suddenly it has given its green signal for the elections” he said. The legendary defender, who had the distinction of being the only player to have led Indian team twice in the Olympics, was of the view that time has come for the players to come forward and take charge. “It is going to be a very tough, I know that, but somebody has to take the plunge. How long we can keep accusing others while silently watch the deterioration”, he said. Pargat who also heads Clean Sports India, a newly formed body, says he is confident of success but “I am prepared for anything”, KPS Gill was amused at the ongoing drama.
“HI has threatened to take action against the players who have taken part in the Bhopal National. Who has given them this right? IHF is a legal body and I am surprised at the temerity of so called HI officials,” Gill refuses to recognise HI. “Who has formed HI; on what authority it has been formed. Former Olympian Aslam Sher Khan, author of controversial book To Hell With Hockey reacting to the chaos said. He was sad, that while the team’s performance was showing no signs of recovery, officials are busier in safeguarding their chairs rather than bothering about the game.
The last has not been said or heard about the elections. As for as on the field performance is concerned Indian hockey has miles to go before it can regain its lost glory. Off the field, once a Nation’s pride it is turning out to be the Nation’s shame because of the infighting by the officials.
By Harpal Singh Bedi