Despite Asian Games gold, Indian hockey still not on top of the game
As the Terry Walsh episode shows, Indian sport is hobbled by an unresponsive, often obstructionist bureaucracy.
Just when it seemed that Indian hockey had at last found its feet and was enjoying a bit of glory after decades by winning the gold at the Asian Games, news came that coach Terry Walsh had resigned over remuneration issues. He has now withdrawn his resignation. Had he left, Mr Walsh would have been the fifth foreign coach to do so in a decade. This episode brings to light another instance of the way Indian hockey is run. One has only to recall how the standard of the game declined in India after KPS Gill, who was then still serving as Punjab’s director general of police, took over as president of the Indian Hockey Federation in 1994. Together with this, another IPS officer, of the West Bengal cadre, was appointed as one of the federation’s vice-presidents. True, India won the gold at the Asian Games in 1998, but the goose of hockey here was well and truly cooked under this regime with recurrent conflicts between the players and the federation. The way a parallel body by the name Hockey India, which runs the show now, was set up to defang the precursor body is testimony to the state of the sport.
This is just one part of the story. The All India Football Federation, for long run by politicians, has singularly failed to elevate the standard of Indian football, which last tasted success at international level in 1970, when India won the bronze. Thereafter, it became an embarrassment to send the national team abroad while South Korea, which India used to defeat often in the 1960s, now takes on the world-beaters in the game. While there have been efforts at establishing football institutions, such as setting up the Tata Football Academy, they have not translated into much success.
In tennis some Indians have indeed been successful but the Indian Lawn Tennis Association has precious little to contribute to that. Tennis has grown largely through private initiative. As regards other sport bodies, they are largely comatose, and exist only as affiliate bodies of the Indian Olympic Association. In spite of this if some shooters and boxers have won laurels, the credit goes to the individuals. The culture of remembering our sportspersons only at the time of the Olympics and Asian Games must end. They should not suffer at the hands of politicians and bureaucrats.