How Maken saved the day

Left to the powers that be India could have well lost the right to host the Olympic qualifiers. Navneet Singh reports. Minister’s take

india Updated: Feb 24, 2012 02:39 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
Hindustan Times

That Hockey India (HI) did not pay the national team players despite getting huge sponsorship was reported by HT two days ago (see page graphic). It now emerges the international federation, FIH, took away last year’s Champions Trophy --- and almost pulled the plug on the Olympics Qualifiers -- not due to infighting in the hockey set-up but also due to pending payments.

The trigger was that the ad hoc panel, which also included Hockey India bosses, had not applied for a crucial clearance from the sports ministry before the 2010 World Cup. This resulted in the FIH not receiving the final instalment of its share of money from the event.

To get its pending dues cleared from the World Cup, which was organised jointly by the FIH and the ad hoc committee headed by IOA chief Suresh Kalmadi, the world body drove a hard bargain with the ministry. It made it clear that its dues of roughly Rs One crore, withheld by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), must be released immediately for FIH-sanctioned tournaments, including the qualifiers, to stay in India, ministry sources told HT.

And but for the intervention of the sports ministry, and minister Ajay Maken in particular, India would have lost the chance to try and gain a passage to London in favourable home conditions.

To show that it meant business, the FIH had, in the first week of September last year, taken away the Champions Trophy that India was scheduled to host last December. FIH president Leandro Negre had then attributed issues related to governance of hockey in the country for taking the elite event away.

Maken stepped in and played a crucial role to get the dues cleared and ensured that at least the qualifiers stayed. “We did that for the benefit for hockey and not for any other reason,” was Maken’s only comment.

Once it received the money, Negre sent a message to Maken from Lausanne in December, informing him of the FIH executive body’s decision to retain the qualifiers in India.

Taking away the Champions Trophy robbed India, having failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics and desperate to make amends, a chance to take on the best in the business ahead of the qualifiers. Losing the Qualifiers would have dealt a massive blow to Indian hockey. A weak field may well see it qualify.

First Published: Feb 24, 2012 00:16 IST