The handshake diplomacy advocated by the Sports Minister, Ajay Maken, to resolve the issues confronting the hockey administration appears very simplistic. The problems are varied, complex and illogical. All these have given the country a bad image. The damage caused is enormous.
Well meaning in intent and purpose, the suggestion is worthy of a debate by Hockey India (HI) and Indian Hockey Federation (IHF). But this is easily said than done. The meeting point has eluded for three years. It is not the lack of modalities that proved a deterrent; it is the rigid stance taken by the groups.
A lot of blame to the present impasse must be laid at the door of FIH. There has been too much interference. In the guise of a Special Project, the FIH emaciated the federation to a state of inertia. Everything that should have progressed normally acquired the contours of confusion. The resultant distrust gave way to disruption.
The catastrophic happening at Santiago in 2008 when India failed to make the Olympic grade for the first time and the aberrations within the IHF gave the Indian Olympic Association a stick to beat the elected federation and divert its functions to a favoured panel.
This move, at the height of emotions of failure sweeping across the country, has contributed to the present quagmire. Too much has happened since then. The casualty had been hockey.
The FIH was bent upon getting its agenda of capturing the vast Indian market with whoever was in a position to help. The IOA, led by the then all-powerful Suresh Kalmadi, and its creation, HI, fit the bill. Without visualising the consequences, FIH accorded recognition to HI.
However, as much as the FIH may deny its motive for profit, the allotment of a slew of events to India, almost bending backwards to alter the norms for its flagship event — the Champions Trophy — makes its goals clear. Resorting to opaque regulations and interpretations, the FIH justified its acceptance of HI.
It is impossible to revisit the scene of 2008. HI is a fait accompli. How far can IHF walk — Mr. K. P. S. Gill says more than “half way,” — to sort out the differences?
There needs to be a lot of give-and-take if a merger is to become a reality. Several genuine, hard-working functionaries at the National and State levels have been sidelined in the theatrics over the struggle for governance. Professionalism became a weakness than strength.
Mr. Ajay Maken is out to put an end to the irritating dualism. This is encouraging. The players are, quite predictably, confused and frustrated. They have been made pawns in this ugly power game. What is the guarantee they will not rise in revolt?
Any attempt to procrastinate the merger will harm hockey's interest more. The huge fraternity is closely monitoring the developments. It awaits the outcome of the sincere efforts by the Sports Minister towards reconciliation and development. Will Mr. Ajay Maken have his way?