The hockey crisis has finally blown over with the players promising to return to training on Thursday. Addressing a hurriedly convened press conference at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi, the 22 rebels and president of the Indian Olympic Association, Suresh Kalmadi, said training would start in right earnest for the World Cup in New Delhi next month.
The IOA president assured that Rs one crore would be distributed among players within a week as incentive for their performance last year, adding that the money had come from different organisations. He did not specify whether the money had come from team sponsors, Sahara India, who, earlier in the day, announced Rs one crore for Hockey India.
“The players’ demand for a graded payment system will be taken up by HI after elections on Feb. 7,” said Kalmadi. The IOA chief also announced that a committee comprising of four former captains and Olympians — Zafar Iqbal, Ajitpal Singh, MP Ganesh and Dhanraj Pillai — HI and IOA officials would distribute money among the women and junior players.
After a hectic day of negotiations, which also included former captain Dhanraj Pillai, the breakthrough came at 1.30 pm when the players agreed to meet Kalmadi without pre-conditions. By that time, they had come to know of the Sahara offer to
HI, but wanted a written assurance that their other demands would be looked into.
The players finally agreed when told that Kalmadi was ready to assure them in front of the media. Earlier, the players had rejected all assurances given by HI officials. “HI officials were not ready to assure us in front of the media while Kalmadi did just that. That made the difference,” said senior player Deepak Thakur. “Mr Kalmadi is the IOA president and when he is giving guarantee, we have to agree,” he added.
“We are now ready to train for the World Cup. We haven’t lost a lot of time. The crisis has brought the players closer. The players have proved they are lions and not lambs. I am sure they will take the same spirit to the field,” said Brasa.
The face-off, however, has left the ‘Brasa’s lions’ fearing a HI backlash and are therefore planning to negotiate a ‘no-reprisal’ deal. Kalmadi assured that HI would not take any action.