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A first for hockey: India out of Olympics

National game turns national shame; for the first time in 80 years, India will not play in Olympics, reports Uthra Ganesan.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2008 04:20 IST
Uthra Ganesan

Indian hockey just hit a new low. It hadn’t been flying high of late, but even by its recent abysmal standards, this had to be the nadir.

<b1>For the first time in 80 years, the Indian contingent at an Olympics will not have the men’s hockey team as part of it. India lost to Great Britain in the final of the Olympic qualifiers 2-0 in Santiago on Sunday night (early Monday morning IST). The margin would have been much more, had the British not messed up several easy chances.

For a team that steamrolled every opposition with disdain in its heyday, the fall has been tragic, but gradual and, perhaps, inevitable, given the way the Indian Hockey Federation functions.

But then, it isn’t for nothing that former coach Gerhard Rach called the IHF a “mad house” on the day he unceremoniously left India after India finished fourth in the 2005 Champions Trophy.

India coach Joaquim Carvalho has reportedly resigned and under normal circumstances, the federation president would have followed suit.

But when IHF president, KPS Gill, at the helm for 14 long years (since 1994), says, “We do not have an instant coffee machine that you can get results instantly. It takes time to regain your position. We have put the process in place and the results will take some time,” you have to wonder about the theatre of the absurd that is the IHF.

Take this, for instance. Having accepted, however grudgingly, the appointment of Australian legend Ric Charlesworth as technical consultant for a year — at the behest of the Indian Olympic Association and an agitated international hockey federation (FIH), now probably frantic because one-third of the television audience for hockey is from India — the IHF seemed determined to sideline him.

So much so, that Charlesworth was apparently not given a return ticket for the qualifiers in Chile after being with the Indian camp prior to that, forcing him to stay put in Australia! In the IHF’s fiefdom, nothing is improbable.