India's top hockey players have received support from unexpected quarters. Pakistan's Pervez Bhandara, the Asian representative on the international hockey federation's (FIH) select marketing committee, told the Hindustan Times that in his opinion, “Hockey India needed to give its players their due”.
“Though, with the World Cup approaching, this is not the right time to go on strike, Hockey India should not play dirty with its players. They (the players) only want their due. People here have an emotional attachment with the sport and fielding a second string team will be a betrayal to the subcontinent's hockey lovers,” he said.
Bhandara, a Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) vice-president, here on a personal visit, said the ongoing fracas made no sense.
“Hockey India is richer than the PHF. When the PHF can give its players monthly salaries, why can't Hockey India? Here in India there is no burden on HI to train and coach the national team as the government bears all financial expenses. In Pakistan, the federation has to either generate funds or put a fresh proposal in getting money from the government every time,” he added.
Pakistan introduced a graded system of contracts for its players seven months ago and Bhandara felt that it had made a vital difference to results.
“In Pakistan, around 40 to 50 players get monthly graded salaries ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs. 50,000, because of which we have started getting better results too. It is a huge motivating factor.”
Bhandara was clearly not happy with Hockey India.
“The staging of the World Cup in India is set to be profitable for the FIH, but if the row between the India players and Hockey India is not sorted out soon, it will definitely affect the branding of the World Cup, and give the sport a bad name.”