It were not the allegations by the players but the manner in which Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi handled the hockey players’ strike that prompted Mattoo to quit, a Hockey India source told
The way Kalmadi hung him out to dry while portraying himself as the saviour of Indian hockey hurt Mattoo. It was like casting aspersions on his ability to handle the responsibilities of a HI president.
Mattoo has been pleading with the players and also simultaneously talking tough as he was told not to give in to the 22 striking players.
“The understanding in Hockey India was that giving in to the demands of the players could lead to similar strikes in future, which would embarrass the federation and the country ahead of international tournaments. There was a similar feeling in IOA, and HI officials were constantly told not to succumb to the pressure,” said a source.
Accordingly, Mattoo along with Harish Sharma, Narendra Batra and Rajiv Mehta, gave the players an ultimatum on Tuesday to join the camp within 48 hours or else be replaced by a new set of players.
They had even reached Delhi to threaten the players’ representatives with a list of 20 alternative names.
“Till late in the night on January 12, HI officials were told to be tough with the players. But the very next day, things took a dramatic turn with Dhanraj Pillay stepping in as an emissary of Kalmadi and a truce was agreed upon, the players’ main demand on money was accepted and assurances given on other issues.”
Mattoo was left looking like a villain. More than that, he was made to look incompetent, someone who was not able to handle things as well as Kalmadi did. “He felt humiliated,” said the source.
Another thing that prompted Mattoo to take the call was that Sahara India got in touch with Kalmadi directly and worked out the payment to the players.
Mattoo, it is learnt, made three unsuccessful attempts to talk Sahara into doing what they ultimately did.
“Mattoo was very unhappy with the manner in which the crisis was resolved. He always said he would give players the money if he had it.
While he was advised not to give in to the players’ demands, things were worked out keeping him out of the picture.
He is heartbroken with the kind of treatment he got. That’s the reason he has given up his IOA responsibilities also,” the source added.