The Indian hockey players ran into fresh problems with their proposed exhibition match against a celebrity selection in Chandigarh coming a cropper on Saturday.

With chief coach Jose Brasa announcing, well in advance, a two-day rest from the ongoing camp for the World Cup (starting on February 28), the players had, agreed to play this match but courted controversy on payment issue.

The organisers alleged the players demanded Rs five crore, a charge that was vehemently denied by the players. Interestingly, only six players had reportedly reached the venue.

The match was played without the participation of the national team players.

Hockey India (HI) which had initially expressed its reservations about clearing the team for such an exercise with the World Cup round the corner, eventually left the matter to Brasa.

The Sports Authority of India (SAI) Teams Wing Executive Director Pravir Krishn expressed his ignorance about the players leaving the camp for a match of this nature.

Expressing reservations

Expressing his reservations at the way the players have approached the World Cup, former star Mohammad Shahid observed, “Why is only the Indian team involved in negative activities? When all other teams are concentrating on the game, our players are needlessly making things difficult for themselves. I would like to know how you can promote hockey by playing an exhibition match. To promote hockey, the best thing would be to win the World Cup. Once you win the World Cup, money would follow.”

He was supported by Col. Balbir Singh, who said, “Nothing wrong in it if the money was meant for hockey players but it should have come 20 days earlier. Now, it is time for the players to focus solely on the World Cup.”

Former India captain Pargat Singh was furious. “This is uncalled for. What would they gain by playing some exhibition match? This is the time to concentrate on the World Cup and not exhibition matches. You can't take the nation for a ride.”

Aslam Sher Khan, a member of the 1975 World Cup winning team, “People controlling hockey have no feeling for it. This kind of exhibition match is conducted after a big event. Even we had played a match against film stars after winning the World Cup. This is not the time to play such matches.”

Zafar Iqbal, Olympian and presently government nominee, noted, “I am not aware of how they got the permission or who gave the permission. Obviously, it is not in the interest of the team. What can I say? Let people judge.”

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