The Indian hockey team got ‘stick-checked’ even before it could leave its shores. In a glaring goof-up, the 27-member contingent, on its way to London via Delhi, underwent the agony of missing the early morning flight from Pune and reached Delhi after nearly 10 hours as the alternate flight too got delayed.
All because, the buses assigned to ferry the players to the airport came late. The team management blamed SAI for not arranging adequate transport because of which the team reached the airport late and was denied boarding passes.
“Two matadors arrived at 4.10 am to transport 27 people to the airport. We had asked for a bus to be made available at 3 am and kept calling Bhandarkar till 4 am. The vehicles came at 4.10 and were too small to accommodate the entire the squad,” said a team source.
Virender Bhandarkar, assistant director, SAI Training Centre, Kandivili (Mumbai), rejected the allegations and accused the team of wasting time. Bhandarkar accused the team of misrepresenting facts. “They asked for a vehicle at 4 am. I agree there was a delay of 10 minutes but there was still enough time to reach the airport. We provided three vehicles - two mini-buses, which can accommodate 20 people each, and a bus,” Bhandarkar told HT over the phone from Pune.
“It takes around 20 minutes to reach the airport in the morning and they reached an hour before departure…they (team) didn’t manage things well. They could have sent a group to get boarding passes while a second could have completed the other formalities,” said Bhandarkar, adding that he could furnish records to prove the vehicles reached well in time.
Hockey India secretary Mohd Aslam admitted the team had missed the flight. “I have been told that proper transport was not arranged… and that is the main reason. The airline did not issue boarding passes even though the aircraft was yet to takeoff. We will be holding serious talks with both SAI and the airline with regard to this issue."