CHENNAI: It is sad that the final of PHL-2007 ended the way it did at Chandigarh on Monday. The attack on Satinder Sharma, the only Indian in the elite FIH panel, by the Sher-e-Jalandhar players reflects the level of indiscipline that has gone unchecked for decades now.
Whatever the debatable points in Satinder's ruling, the physical and verbal abuse is unpardonable. It is sad that play had to be suspended for 25 minutes, and the umpire was replaced for fear of more humiliation. If this is the security situation for an umpire of the calibre of Satinder, the risk the others face could well be imagined.
While it is a guessing game on what the IHF would do in the wake of this despicable incident, the fact that the behaviour of the players during this edition was deplorable must be acknowledged. The Chennai leg witnessed several incidents, forcing the IHF to issue a warning to the players to refrain from umpire bashing.
There was even a threat of cutting the offenders' prize money. Even then, the situation only improved marginally.
It is easy to identify the few who indulge in bad behaviour. What is lacking is the will to punish them.
Far too many incidents, such as the one witnessed at Chandigarh, have been buried in the dust of time without proper follow-up.
The time is ripe for the umpires to come together to protect their interests, even if it means preferring a police complaint against the offending players. They can even contemplate moving the courts for justice.
The IHF had probably erred in picking a soft and inexperienced Tournament Director Shakeel Quereshi for the PHL. A more seasoned one like Ku Ku Walia would have handled the situation with aplomb and authority, as he did during the last National at Jalandhar.
It is unfortunate that umpires all over the world view the Indian players as prone to violence. Since the attack on the Japanese umpire Yubuta in the 1985 Asia Cup final, any discerning observer will notice that foreign umpires tend to be over-authoritative while supervising the India games.
The Chandigarh incident sends out a clear message that unless indiscipline against the umpires is rooted out the future of the sport is in peril.
The soft approach of the federation so far, giving the impression that the player is supreme, has done more harm than good.
It is time the guilty, who can easily be identified through video replays, are suspended for a certain period, or banned for life if need be.