Player power ruled on Friday as the organisers of the National Hockey Championship here were forced to double their daily allowance following protests.
Earlier, all that the player were getting for 70 minutes of exertion on the field was a dietary allowance of Rs 200 for three square meals. To add insult to injury, the secretary-general of Hockey India (HI), Narinder Batra, had said in the morning that the amount was good enough.
"The players get allowances from their respective state departments too. I think this is a good enough amount," he had said. However, following protests by a majority of the nearly 600 players, coaches and officials here, Batra made a U-turn and said they would get double that amount as daily allowance.
"I have spoken to Sanjay Chaudhary, director sports, Madhya Pradesh and he has agreed to increase the DA to Rs 400," Batra announced during the inauguration ceremony of the championship on Friday evening.
HI's maiden National Championship is facing a deluge of complaints not just over the measly allowance but also accommodation and transportation arrangements made by the sports and youth welfare department of Madhya Pradesh.
"It's horrible. The 18 members of our team have to stay in two rooms and share a single toilet. Getting ready for early-morning match is a nightmare. We are packed into a minibus that can accommodate 10-12 people, but nearly 21 are packed into it," said an India player. On whether he had raised the issue with HI officials, he said, "What's the point? I know they will do nothing."
Sanjay Choudhary, director sports, MP government, said some teams were exaggerating things. "We have provided accommodation as per HI norms and they are very happy," he told HT.
One of the reasons for the accommodation mess could be the delay on the part of the Sports Authority of India Training Centre to communicate its inability to host some teams. "That was a big setback, but we have made alternate arrangements," said Choudhary.
State government officials are also unhappy with HI. "It's their (HI) tournament. They should have roped in some sponsors and contributed towards the overall cost. We could have accommodated all the teams in hotels and given them better facilities. It is not easy to satisfy everyone in the budget we have," said an officials on condition of anonymity.
One-sided matches were the order of the day as contenders Punjab and Railways romped home with huge margins Day 1.
Pool A: Tamil Nadu 7 bt Uttarakhand 0; Punjab 25 bt Gujarat 0. Pool G: Railways 28 bt Tripura 0; Combined Universities 4 bt Puducherry 1. Pool E: Services 7 bt Manipur 0; Jharkhand 3 bt Himachal Pradesh 0.