The wait for the elections to Hockey India (HI) got longer on Wednesday. Stay orders in the Delhi and Mumbai High Court resulted in HI deferring its polls by at least two weeks.
What is disconcerting is that even if the orders are vacated, HI will surely miss the fourth deadline of July 31 set by international hockey federation (FIH).
Despite the confusion on Tuesday when the government observer for the polls was recalled, HI had decided to go ahead with its schedule.
FIH vice president, Antonio von Ondarza, was also present on the occasion and was visibly disappointed after HI decided to adjourn its annual general meeting in the wake of the court orders. "I had hoped to share a drink with the newly-elected members. Instead, I am flabbergasted at the turn of events," he said.
Ondarza was surprised that the matter of the Indian Hockey Federation was being brought up again despite a ban imposed by the international body. "IHF was banned 10 years ago. Why is it being brought back into a position of power is something that is beyond me."
It is another matter that the FIH had not banned IHF but asked it to merge with its women’s counterpart and hand over affiliation to the Indian Hockey Confederation (IHC).
The Delhi High Court had earlier deemed IHF as the only recognised body of hockey in India.
The fate of the sport lies in delicate balance as Ondarza warned that provisional acceptance given to HI on the condition of holding elections by July 31, might be withdrawn. This would mean that both the men and women’s teams could be debarred.
The first casualty would be the women’s team that would not be able to take part in the World Cup in Argentina in August. "Although unfair to the athletes, I am answerable to the stakeholders and have compulsions," said Ondarza. But he did indicate that if HI was able to get the stay vacated and conduct elections in a week, FIH might yet give its consent.
HI secretary general, Narinder Batra, was confident of conducting polls within days if the stay was vacated. "We have always wanted to conduct polls as per the FIH deadline. We will try and get the stays vacated but saying anything more on a matter which is sub-judice, would not be appropriate," he said.
IHF president, KPS Gill, seemed to favour truce and said it was time to stop mudslinging. "I appreciate the government’s efforts and don’t find the need to go into debates anymore. I will meet Antonio von Ondarza on Thursday to discuss present matters," he said.