Low on budget, high on spirit, Fijians defy the odds

  • Navneet Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Feb 16, 2013 01:45 IST

Even as Hockey India officials rejoice signing a lucrative three-year sponsorship deal with a corporate giant, the Fijian hockey teams — one of the competitors in the Feb 18-24 Hockey World League Round 2 tournament — had to think twice before shelling out R80 per person to hire a taxi to travel from their hotel in Karol Bagh to the National Stadium.

After some deliberation, the teams finally agreed to part with their 'valuable money' to see Japan and Malaysia's training session at the stadium on Friday. “It's a big opportunity for everyone of us to compete in an FIH event. Hence, we want to utilise each and every second of our trip,” the Fiji women's team skipper, Melba Nautu, said.

Perhaps, this could be one of the reasons why the team members did not lose heart when they were told that the 'training facilities' at the stadium could not be used because of certain 'unavoidable circumstances'. Rather than complain, the team made the most of the time, to train in the basement of the hotel.

With a shoestring budget, the teams (both men and women) have preferred low-budget accommodation to five-star hotels, where other participating teams, including India, are staying for the duration of the competition.

Talking to HT, Fiji's hockey development officer, Tai Smith, said, “Due to inadequate finances with the Fiji Hockey Federation, a big-budget hotel is not on our menu. We can'thttp://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/2/16-02-pg19a.jpg afford big-budget hotels, it is as simple as that,” Tai, who is having to accommodate two players per room, said.

On their own
HI secretary-general Narinder Batra said neither the hosts nor the international hockey federation, FIH, gives financial assistance to participating teams for boarding and lodging. “The teams have to pay for their accommodation,” he said.

In fact, had friends, family members and well-wishers not contributed, Fiji would have abandoned the tour of India. All the team members were engaged in raising funds for the trip when they were not training back home. “It worked out well. Half of the total expenses for the tour were collected by players, while the federation contributed the remaining amount,” said Tai.

The toil of raising the funds apart, the players were not even given relaxation by their employers to train for the event. After working from 8am to 5pm, the players trained for three hours to improve their skills. Before leaving the hotel for the National Stadium, Tai said with a smile, “In Fiji, if you don't go to office, your salary gets cut.”


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