With both Hockey India and India’s top 22 players refusing to budge from their respective positions, the crisis in Indian hockey does not seem like it will end till senior HI officials fly down here and speak to their players.
The players remained closeted in their rooms at the Balewadi Sports Complex hostel near here throughout Monday, only coming out in small groups for morning walks, breakfast and lunch. They did not speak to the media camping at the hostel gate, except towards the evening, when some senior players came out to reiterate their stand — they would not resume practice till they are given what they believe is their just reward for performances over the past year.
In the entire brouhaha, it seems both groups have forgotten about the upcoming World Cup that India will be hosting in just over 50 days. The game of one-upmanship seems more important for HI officials, who claim they don’t have Rs 60-70 lakh to give to the players. The players, meanwhile, are steadfast in their demand for the payment of reward money — they believe that other demands like graded payments and contracts are secondary.
While HI officials spent Monday in New Delhi discussing and working out a solution to their election issues and the tricky issue of affiliation of its units, players and coaches twiddled their thumbs here in Pune. Whatever happens, this is a crisis that could change the face of Indian hockey forever.
‘Adversity has brought us closer’
Hockey aficionados might feel the standoff between HI and the players is detrimental to Indian hockey, but goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza says it has brought the players closer.
“We have come closer as a unit. The players know that what they are doing will help the future generation as they will get better remuneration for representing the country,” D’Souza told HT in Balewadi on Monday.
D’Souza said the players are ready to go the distance on this as they consider this as a matter of right. “We have received rewards for winning tournaments earlier…our performances have been recognised. Though Rs. 25,000 per player is not great, it was still encouraging. We haven’t got anything for the last one year,” said D’Souza. Though he refused to spell out the players’ demands and the details of the meeting with HI officials in New Delhi on Saturday, sources say the sum being offered by HI is too small to consider.