Before the dust raised by previous controversies could settle, a fresh storm is brewing in Indian hockey, with the World Cup just days away.
The national team players were scheduled to play against filmstars in the DLF Pride of India Cup, an exhibition match to promote the World Cup, in Chandigarh. An event for a cause took an ugly turn when players refused to participate after organisers alleged late on Friday that they had demanded Rs 5 crore as appearance money.
“We never demanded any money from the organisers. It’s a baseless allegation,” said India skipper Rajpal Singh. On Saturday morning, three senior India players --- Rajpal Singh, Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh — rushed to Chandigarh and, after a long meeting with the organisers and Bollywood star Sunil Shetty, decided to call off the match, which was to be organised under the aegis of AMR Foundation.
“We came here to talk to the organisers and asked them to clear the air before the media. But they refused and we decided not to play,” said Thakur.
However, the organisers maintained that the players had demanded money. “This is a charity match. How can we give them money and that too such a big amount?” asked Anshul Nagar, the AMR Foundation spokesperson. “There was a meeting with the players today and they started negotiating and when it didn’t materialise, they refused to play,” he added.
The Indian team had taken verbal permission from Hockey India to participate in the event and, as per the organisers, 22 players had given consent in writing. But late on Friday night, when thing ‘didn't materialise’, the organisers called up the media and alleged that the players were demanding money.
“I am here to support the game. It’s sad that the players are not participating,” said Sunil Shetty. Unhappy with the players' refusal, Haryana Sports Department officials, who came to the Sector 42 Hockey Stadium to present a cheque of Rs. 11 lakh to charity, decided not to give it.