The Indian Hockey team players and officials are at loggerheads over payment of dues
The turmoil in the Indian hockey camp, which is in Pune and preparing for the 2010 World Cup to be held in Delhi, is not just a matter of concern for the players who are aiming to represent India in that prestigious event but also to many former Olympians like Hyderabad's very own triple Olympian Nandnuri Mukesh Kumar and 1996 Atlanta Olympics goalkeeper Alloysius Edwards, the only other Olympian hockey player from the City.
But, interestingly, these two outstanding former internationals express complete solidarity with the players' struggle against the officialdom on the basic issue of demanding payment of dues. “I believe it is a very bold move by the players to revolt against the officials knowing fully well the consequences they might face. Do remember, they are making a legitimate demand which can be easily implemented. The mere fact that the money issue cropped up is itself a sad reflection on how the sport is run in the country,” moans Alloysius. “Even in our playing days, these things did crop up and there were occasions when we too thought of taking this kind of extreme step but then the fear of being sacked forced many of the big guns to beat a hasty retreat,” he recalls. “I can't understand the logic of how these officials function. Always taking the players for granted.” But, does he justify the timing of the revolt ahead of the World Cup? “Definitely yes. Or else the officials will not just bother to respond. If you had seen the request for payment was made a few weeks before the start of the camp and not just after it commenced. The fact that the officials did not bother to respond to that plea is a sorry reflection,” the Punjab & Sind Bank officer explained. What about the question of playing for the national pride? “But, how long should one keep playing only for this. Don't the players need minimum financial assistance to take care of their basic needs? It is deplorable that things have not changed since the days we played (we were paid a daily allowance of just $ 25),” says Alloysius. “And let me remind here that the plight of the women hockey players is still worse,” says the former international who was with the national women's team sometime ago.
Mukesh Kumar also sympathises with the current Indian players. “After all they are demanding payment of match fees which is due for winning bronzes in the Champions Challenge recently. The issue is how long should they suffer because of the indifferent attitude of the officials who govern the sport,” he argues. “Yes, definitely, the presence of a Players' Panel like the one former Olympian Pargat Singh headed in 90s could have been handy in a crisis like this. For it could have been a platform to present one's case in a more systematic manner,” Mukesh says to a query. “It is definitely sad to hear the officials threaten these players with a ban if they don't resume coaching in the national camp,” he says.
“Unfortunately, in any given crisis in hockey, it is the players who suffer and the officials get away with whatever they do. This is the bane of Indian hockey,” the Indian Airlines Manager says. “It would also be very bad if someone tries to find fault with the timing of the revolt. For if that is the case, does it mean the prestige of Indian hockey would go up with the sulking players (not paid this money) being forced to play for the country while crores is spent on infrastructure,” he analysed.
But all said and done, the two Olympians from the City do believe it is in the interest of the sport that the Hockey India sorts out the problem at the earliest. “Any problem has a solution if one has the will and the desire,” they sign off.V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM