These are exciting times in hockey. Sometimes one can’t understand why is everybody so obsessed with India winning international tournaments and constantly talking of a revival. Even without winning titles, we have mastered the art of keeping hockey in the limelight. Promoting the World Series, getting the series banned, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) warning the players, Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) threatening to take the FIH to court, ESPN STAR Sports taking the IHF to court; while the players sit on the bench and watch the officials play their own Champions Trophy.
Indian hockey has always been official driven. Players have just been sidelights. If they win, the officials take centre-stage and if they lose, the players are ridiculed. Even in the ongoing saga of the World Series Hockey, the players are cattle. They have always been treated like cattle. Sell us and gather the applause. In the 1994 World Cup after India beat South Korea, IHF President KPS Gill was asked to announce a cash award to boost their morale. An official with the team said,” Let’s announce Rs 50,000 per player.” Gill’s answer was,” What will they do with 50,000? 30,000 is more than enough.” India finished fifth in the World Cup, their highest standing in the WC since then.
Even now, the players read newspapers, check websites to find out what is happening. There is nobody to tell them anything. Suddenly, a cash rich league looks a distant possibility. Players had woven their dreams and banked the money. As Arjun Halappa says, “Playing for the country in the Olympics is priority. But we wish they settle the issue and let the WSH happen.”
Now it’s not only IHF Vs FIH Vs HI. It’s IHF Vs FIH Vs HI Vs ESPNSTAR Sports. Maybe, in the next few days, a few more artistes will take the stage. It’s baffling how they keep doing this time and again. Arrogance, old world management, visionless officials and people with no stake in the sport have ripped apart the belly of hockey. Hockey is the new Serengeti.
There could be more trouble in store. What if the Indian Hockey Federation is restored? Then what happens to Hockey India. The FIH may refuse to acknowledge the IHF and say that they will only recognise Hockey India. More court cases. One wonders what these hockey officials want. Former Indian Hockey star said recently, "The big bosses who run the game are only interested in sex, publicity and money." Shocking stuff!
As a national player said, “All these officials need to just sit down and work things out. Ego is killing Indian hockey. What is worse is that these officials don’t even have a link with the sport but they hold the power strings.”
With the National coach not being named before mid March, the players will just sit around cooling their heels or play in some foreign league. Then the national camp begins for the Sultan Azlan Shah in Malaysia on May 5. In effect, after five months, the Indian team will play its first tournament. It would have been better if the officials would have fought their wars over the World Series Hockey while ensuring that the Indian team goes on a few tours or play a Test series at home. An entire winter schedule has been wasted.
Wonder who is playing in the World Series Hockey – officials or the players!