It’s a story straight out of the “Book of Apathetic Attitude”. At a time when the country is pumping in more than Rs 10,000 crores to make the 2010 Commonwealth Games the grandest spectacle ever, India's under-18 hockey probables for the forthcoming Asia Cup are getting ‘stone age’ equipment to fashion India's dream.
Instead of fibre sticks, the 30-odd probables at the Netaji Subhash SAI Sub-Centre in Lucknow are making do with wooden sticks, long consigned to the dustbin by the 'civilised' hockey world.
Reason: The state associations have not bothered to give them fibre sticks because each of those pieces comes for Rs 6,000, while the Indian Women's Hockey Association (IWHF) says it doesn't have the resources to buy them. Not only that, the girls haven't been provided with even basic things like playing kits and shoes after 15 days in the camp.
“It's an irony that Indian sportspersons don't get any support from their own state associations,” says former Indian hockey player RP Singh. “The role of state associations has become minimal. Today, if the central government stops supporting sportspersons, their survival will become impossible."
Former hockey Olympian Mohd Shahid says that in their hour of need, the IWHF should come forward and support the players. "Most of the federations have big sponsors…it won't be a problem for the IWHF to manage a few fibre sticks and quality shoes.”
But IWHF secretary Amrit Bose refused to bite into the debate. “The IWHF gives selected players sticks once in a year. Since this is the first camp for the U-18, we are facing problems. IWHF is not a millionaire to keep distributing fibre sticks to every player in the country. It's also the responsibility of the state associations,” she said.
Non-availability of playing kits is also creating some technical difficulties for the coaching staff. “Improper shoes cause most of the injuries, and I suspect a similar thing to happen here if they continue playing with the shoes they've brought from home,” said a member of the coaching staff.
Sports Authority of India Sub-Centre director Sanjay Saraswat said measurements of players had been taken and they would be handed over the kits in a day or two. “SAI supports national campers under prescribed norms and provides them with playing facilities but sticks aren't our responsibility. It's the job of the national federation,” he added.
The inaugural edition of the U-18 Asia Cup is slated for July in Shanghai. Besides hosts China, teams like India, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka and Singapore are also participating in the event.