The biggest crisis to hit Indian hockey was resolved after a compromise deal was worked out on Wednesday between the game’s administrators and striking players, who were promised an immediate disbursement of Rs. 1 crore.
Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi brokered the deal, which envisaged a long-term plan to meet the players’ financial demands. This convinced them to rejoin the World Cup preparatory camp, which has been stalled for the past five days over the payment dispute.
Mr. Kalmadi, who flew in here to negotiate with the protesting players, said a full settlement had been reached but did not specify how he intended meeting all their demands.
“Hockey has been our national game. It can never be a national shame. It will be our national pride. The players all feel that they want to bring up Indian hockey. I assured them of full support,” he told a press conference later.
Mr. Kalmadi, who is also Chairman of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, said Rs. 1 crore given by sponsors Sahara India would be disbursed among the players within a week and all other issues settled in due course.
The settlement of the crisis, which has been dogging Indian hockey for some time, paves way for the players to rejoin the camp from Thursday.
The players, who till Tuesday had been insisting on a written assurance from Hockey India that all their demands would be met, now decided to withdraw the strike on Mr. Kalmadi’s verbal assurance.
Former players and administrators welcomed the settlement, which will allow the players to focus on the February 28-March 13 World Cup in Delhi. Mr. Kalmadi said a Players’ Welfare Development Fund would be created and the former captain, Dhanraj Pillay, who played a key role in resolving the crisis, put in charge of it.
He made it clear that no player would be targeted in future for boycotting the camp. “No player will be targeted. They have done it within decorum. I will also tell the next HI president to agree to the players’ demand.”
Mr. Kalmadi said the Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh governments had promised financial support to the players. “In view of all this, we have also decided to form another committee to look into the finances. This committee will be chaired by Hockey India president and will include representatives from the IOA and players like Zafar Iqbal, Ajit Pal Singh, M.P. Ganesh and Pillay.”