Before they could show their skills at the courts in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar, Kerala’s men’s volleyball players had to go through some anxious moments at courts of a different kind. It was only after getting a verdict in favour of them, first from the Kerala High Court and then the Supreme Court, that the team could travel to Gujarat for the National Games.
So, when Kerala won the men’s gold at the National Games at the SAG courts, after beating Tamil Nadu in straight sets on Wednesday, the players were not just delighted but felt vindicated as well. “We had to win the gold as we had to prove a point,” Tom Joseph, the former Indian captain who was Kerala’s assistant coach at the National Games, tells The Hindu over phone. “We didn’t know whether we would be able to compete till a few days ahead of the competitions.”
Not selected initially
The players, including some of India’s best volleyball players, had to approach the court because they were not selected in the first place, when the Kerala State Volleyball Association (KSVA) picked the men’s and women’s teams for the National Games.
Tom says it is unfortunate that India’s leading players are being punished by the KSVA and the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) because they took part at the Prime Volleyball League, being organised by Baseline Ventures.
Reason for controversy
The VFI had associated with the Prime League’s earlier version, Pro Volleyball League, though. But it didn’t last long. A Madras High Court-appointed arbitrator ordered the VFI to pay Baseline Ventures ₹4 crore for wrongfully terminating the company’s contract for conducting the Pro Volleyball League after just one year.
“The Prime League has been a big success and it is financially rewarding for the players,” Tom says. “One has to understand that there is little money in volleyball.”
Credit for success
He adds that the Kerala government deserves credit for the team’s success in Gujarat. “It was the Kerala Sports Council’s technical committee that selected the men’s and women’s volleyball teams for the National Games,” he says. “Kerala Sports Minister V. Abdurahiman and Kerala Sports Council president Mercy Kuttan were very supportive.”
KSVA secretary C. Sathyan says the association selected the teams according to the regulations. “We are happy that the Kerala team won the medals at the National Games and that is what matters,” he says.
The incident is only the latest proof for the sorry state of affairs in many sports bodies in the country.