Will participation in the Indian Hockey Federation - backed 63rd Senior National Men’s Hockey Championship for the Rangaswamy Cup put players’ careers on the line?
Given that Hockey India (HI), the adhoc body recognised by the Federation of International Hockey (FIH), has already threatened to take strict action against those participating in the competition, players have reason to be worried.
Nevertheless, players have entered the competition as, for many of them, it’s a big opportunity. “I hope to get a government job after playing in the championship. But I am still not sure about the authenticity of the event,” said Haseen Khan of Rajasthan. “Since the nationals have not been held for many years now, this is my last chance to participate.”
Tripura’s Daniel Soy Murum echoed the thought. “I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. All I know is that this event could help me get a job in my state,” he said. While these players have ignored the HI threat, some state units and players have taken note and stayed away. And as most of the top players are busy preparing for the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, the teams are mostly packed with new faces. Adam Sinclair of Tamil Nadu and SS Gill of Chandigarh are the only two former Olympians in the competition.
Nonetheless, the event has seen some impressive hockey. “HI can’t ignore this pool of talent. If they impose a ban on all participating players, it will have a major negative impact on Indian hockey,” tournament director Peter Menenzes said.
National umpire TP Singh also urged authorities not to penalise players. “They are the future of Indian hockey and should not be overlooked,” he said.
Many players have alleged that they have been forced to play in the competition by their state units. “Since there is confusion about the authenticity of the event, I didn’t want to participate. But I was forced to play by my state unit officials,” said a player on condition of anonymity. “We are being sandwiched between the two bodies,” he complained.