Fed up with failures, Govt punishes hockey
India beat Argentina on Wednesday to reach the semifinal of the eight-nation Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament in Malaysia. But the win came a little late in the day. Just hours before, the government had announced that hockey would no longer be a priority sport.
Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Mani Shankar Aiyar told Parliament that men’s hockey had been “demoted” from the ‘Priority’ to the ‘General’ category because of “the continuous poor performance of the Indian hockey team in all major tournaments in the recent past”.
The demotion means hockey will get less money from the government. This will affect the number of foreign tours and preparatory camps, among other things.
Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) chief K.P.S. Gill told HT: “Ask the people (on the demotion), it’s the national sport… but they (the government) have their criteria.” Asked if he was disappointed, Gill hit back: “Why should I be disappointed…. As it is, the government hasn’t done enough for the sport in the country.”
“When we received the fax (about the demotion) on Tuesday, we were stunned,” said IHF secretary K. Jothikumaran. “Delhi is hosting both the Commonwealth Games and the Hockey World Cup in 2010. Why couldn’t the government give us some more time?”
The IHF said it was unfair that hockey was downgraded simply on the basis of the performances in the last Commonwealth and Asian games. India finished sixth at the 2006 Melbourne Games and failed to win a medal at the Doha Asiad.
Ministry officials refused to say whether hockey still enjoyed national-sport status. I. Srinivas, joint secretary, sports ministry, said: “No one can rob hockey of its pride of place. We are only sending a strong signal to the IHF. The ministry feels that Indian hockey needs to be provoked into improving.”