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'Govt cannot act against IHF'

Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar says he is bound by the 'Olympic Charter' and cannot interfere in the functioning of autonomous body like IHF.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 11, 2008 01:58 AM IST

As angry fans clamoured for Government intervention to revive Indian hockey after the ignominy of failing to qualify for upcoming Olympic Games, Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar on Monday made it clear that he had no authority to act against the game's governing body.

Aiyar said his Ministry was bound by the 'Olympic Charter' and he could not interfere in the functioning of an autonomous body like the IHF.

"All Federations are autonomous and only voters decide on the ouster or appointment of a Federation President but the Government of India is not a voter so at the moment we cannot do anything," Aiyar told reporters.

"We don't appoint a Federation President so we cannot remove him as well. We just watch and suffer," he said adding that "there are serious limitations as to what can be attempted (because of Olympic Charter) nevertheless we are working on what can be done".

All hell broke lose after the eight-time Olympic gold medalist Indian team failed to book a berth for Beijing Games for the first time in 80 years and former players called for the head of IHF Supremo KPS Gill.

Aiyar said like any hockey fan he was also disappointed and heartbroken at the loss but refused to share the blame for the poor show by the team last night at the World Hockey Olympic qualifying tournament in Santiago, Chile which cost it an Olympic berth.

"I took no credit for the fantabulous victory of our cricket team in Australia because the credit should go where it is due and here it was for BCCI and debit must also go where it is due which is, you can fill in the blanks," he said.

The 67-year-old Aiyar said he was seeing Indian hockey going down since he was 27 years of age.

India won successive Olympic gold medals in early years but "they suffered humiliation in Tokyo Games and since then I have seen them gradually declining from my age of 27 to 67. So when I see that they did not qualify for the Games for the first time since 1928 (when the sport was introduced in Olympics), my heart is completely broken.

"But as far as approportionating the responsibility is concerned you should ask that to the IHF. I have no reaction to that. Federations are autonomous and they should tell who is responsible," he said and described the defeat as a "very disappointing and shameful" development.

But the Minister said he would not demand any explanation from the Federation on the loss.

"I won't be making any such demand but as far as Parliament question is concerned it will be recorded and I will forward that to IHF," he said.

"We are going ahead in some disciplines like cricket, chess, carrom, tennis and archery but we still need to do that in some others sports. I cannot, as a minister, keep giving advise for every single discipline. It is the work of experts.

"As a minister, I can make policies with the help of government," he said.

Asked what was the use of hiring expert Ric Charlesworth when he did not contribute to the national team, Aiyar directed the question to Joint Secretary I Srinivasan.

"It was left to the IHF how to use Charlesworth and they decided that he should work with the Under-21 and national women's teams than assisting the national men's team. We could not have said anything in that," Srinivasan said.

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