Fourteen years of a controversial and often contentious era of Indian hockey came to an end on Monday, with what was, in effect, the sacking of president KPS Gill.
<b1>While Gill wasn’t specifically ‘sacked’, as the Indian Olympic Association ‘indefinitely suspended’ the Indian Hockey Federation — which was completely controlled by Gill — he is no longer in charge and the body he controls no longer exists.
The dramatic action of dissolving the IHF and the constitution of a five-member ad-hoc committee, came exactly
seven days after a TV sting operation showed IHF secretary-general K Jothikumaran accepting a bribe in a cash-for-selection scandal.
An emergency IOA executive committee meeting, held at president Suresh Kalmadi’s residence, and attended by the likes of AIFF president and Cabinet Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, the members unanimously backed the resolution for the suspension of the IHF.
Though the IHF supremo sat through the hour-long meeting and tried “putting forward his point of view”, the IOA brass had made up their minds on the former super-cop.
While the members of the ad-hoc panel will be announced later, Kalmadi said a selection committee comprising five hockey Olympians — chairman Aslam Sher Khan, Ashok Kumar, Ajit Pal Singh, Zafar Iqbal and Dhanraj Pillay — had been constituted “to ensure proper selection of the teams for international tournaments”.
Legendary Australian super-coach Ric Charlesworth will advise the selection committee. Kalmadi also said that two of three-member committee set up by the IHF to probe the sting operation had sent in their resignations to the IOA.
Meanwhile, in a speech that was carefully worded but made no bones about what he thought of the hockey mess, Kalmadi said, “I have great regard for Gill. He has been a wonderful cop and the IOA appreciates his work in Punjab. But the IOA is empowered to take action if it (affiliated) federation discredits the country or the sport it is running… This was a very painful decision, but we had to go ahead with it since there was an element of corruption involved.”
On whether the IOA had set a timeframe to hold fresh elections to the IHF, the IOA president said, “The ad-hoc committee will run till the time the IOA feels that Indian hockey is not back on track.” Conceding that there was tremendous media pressure in the aftermath of the scandal, Kalmadi said: “We reacted to the media…we gave Gill and Jothikumaran the chance to come and put forward their case, but unfortunately Jothi didn’t come and missed a great opportunity (to clarify his stand).”
Sounding a serious warning that all federations should come clean on their accounts, Kalmadi said: “We have taken concrete action…we had a great responsibility to run the game in the country. Now we want all federations to become accountable. They will have to submit their accounts to the IOA by this month-end.”
The IOA had been under severe pressure from the International Hockey Federation (FIH), which had threatened to take away the 2010 World Cup (ahead of the Commonwealth Games) if action was not initiated against the IHF. “The FIH had warned that we could lose the World Cup. We didn’t want such a thing to happen considering that we are hosting the Commonwealth Games and likely to bid for the 2020 Olympic Games,” conceded Kalmadi.
On whether the IOA would crack down on other federations too, Kalmadi said: “This was a one-off decision…it was a very serious matter.” Asked whether national coach Joaquim Carvalho and his support staff would also be shown the door, Kalmadi said, “We have taken the main decision…we’ll decide on others soon.” The IOA president, however, said that Gill could be consulted in future (on hockey matters) if the need arises. Earlier, Gill arrived without his customary Black Cat commandoes and fleet of cars. He left without uttering a word to a clamouring media. Of course, he had come to know about his fate much before the scribes did.