During the recently concluded sub-junior zonal hockey tournament in Mumbai, two sets of teams turned up to represent Maharashtra. One was headed by the secretary-general of Hockey Maharashtra, Kehar Singh, and the other by its president, Rekha Bhinde.
Obviously, one set of boys and girls was not allowed to participate.
Fingers are being pointed at the national body, Hockey India (HI). “If the federation is turning its back on the mess in the state body, it is clear that they are supporting Kehar Singh,” said Bhinde. Kehar, who is getting HI's support, is more than 80 years old.
The Maharashtra body is in turmoil for the last 12 months and no district competition has been organised. Budding players, a majority of them school-going, are already feeling the brunt.
“We’re trying to resolve the dispute,” said Mariamma Koshy, HI president. She, however, wasn't sure how long will the dispute linger on. "We are working on it," she told HT from Kerala.
All this infighting has had a deep impact on the players who were not allowed to compete. “It’s strange such things happen. We were just thrown out of the competition for no fault of ours," said Komal Shinde, a player from Sangli. Komal was not the only 15-year-old who was affected. "As tempers flared, all the girls got scared," Komal added.
Players selected by the Bhinde group faced similar problems during the 2011-12 edition of the junior nationals. Bhinde, a former international and an Arjuna Awardee said, "I had apprised the federation of the issue, but nothing happened."
But Kehar remains unperturbed. "We had conducted trials and selected those who were present," he said.
He blamed Bhinde for the mess, saying she should quit. "We will not accept her," he added.
Bhinde's fault, it is learnt, lies in keeping a tab on the accounts. In fact, She had to seek court intervention to remain in the association.
With officials fighting to dislodge each other, building a strong team is the last thing on their mind.