A day after the victorious men's hockey team trashed the "paltry amount" offered by Hockey India to the Asian Champions Trophy-winning squad, hockey greats lashed out at the federation, saying, if they didn't have enough money in their coffers, they should not have announced it.Ashok Kumar, the son of legendary hockey player, Dhyan Chand, said, "This is shameful. If you don't have enough funds, you shouldn't announce incentives. Hockey is an expensive sport. Even a good pair of playing shoes costs upwards of Rs 5000. The reward should be commensurate with the financial needs of the players," he said.
Ministry steps in
On a day when the federations threw its hands up, saying it could not afford more than Rs 25000 as reward to each player, the sports ministry calmed down frayed tempers, announcing Rs 1.5 lakh to each member and the Punjab government chipped in with a purse of Rs 25 lakh.But HI found itself at the receiving end of hockey veterans' barbs. Former skipper Pargat Singh said that it was an insult to the players. "The issue was mishandled. Such a meager reward should not have been given at a public function...better not to give money than to give such a meager amount," he opined.
Maken backs players
Sports minister, Ajay Maken, at a hurriedly convened press conference at his office, too backed the players for rejecting the reward. "It was a natural reaction. Any player would have refused an amount of Rs 25000. It was an insult to them," he said, adding that HI should have consulted the ministry before announcing the reward.
Maken said that if the team wins the next World Cup, the government will give Rs 5 lakh to each player, "and if it can win the Olympic gold, the reward will be Rs 25 lakh each."
However, HI justified the sum saying, the funds at its disposal were limited. "After reviewing the budget, we were left with some surplus, which we thought we would distribute among the players," said HI secretary-general Narinder Batra.
Batra added that he had no intention of hurting the players' feelings. "When we have more funds at our disposal, we will give more to the players."
He said all the cheques were with the federation, and that he would speak to the players when they converge at Bangalore for the national camp on September 19. "In case the players are still reluctant to accept the cheques, I will deposit the amount in HI's players' welfare funds."