Post-Santiago, it’s back to the grind
(Saurabh Duggal in Chandigarh)
EVEN AS critics continue to write their epitaphs following the men's team's failure to reach the Olympics for the first time in 80 years, for the national players, the sport will never die. Their passion is alive and they see the game as the only way to get out of the gloomy scenario.
Leaving behind the agony of the qualification debacle and the fatigue of a 44-hour long journey back from Santiago, many players took to the field of Friday. They will be appearing for their respective employers in the Guru Gobind Singh Memorial Hockey Tournament starting in Ludhiana on Saturday.
Prabhjot Singh, declared Player of the Tournament in Chile, and six others — Sardar Singh, Rajpal Singh, Baljit Singh, VR Raghunath, Bharat Chikara and Roshan Minz — will be representing Indian Oil while Gurbaj Singh will be appearing for Mumbai’s Air India.
"Chile was a heartbreaking experience but we have to move on. Victories and defeats are part of the game and this tournament is an opportunity for us to get back to hockey," said Prabhjot.
"Bangladesh beat our cricket team in the World Cup and France lost to Senegal in the football world Cup. Does it mean that cricket is dead in India or France has stopped playing football," he questioned.
Sardar Singh admitted that the players were feeling low after the Chile debacle and playing in the domestic tournament will boost their confidence.
Gurbaj seconded his teammate. "The Chile defeat shattered us but we can't stick to it forever. Taking to the field is the only way out for us and practice will help us raise our standard."
A farcical assessment of sports!
(Uthra Ganesan in New Delhi)
IT WAS supposed to be an honest assessment of the “present and future of Indian sports”. It turned out to be a farce played out by the Indian Olympic Association and a drill that only emphasised the lack of seriousness on part of the IOA regarding Indian sports.
IOA secretary-general Randhir Singh blamed the government for everything and all but exonerated Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) president KPS Gill for the current mess that the national game finds itself in. “It is easy to blame the IHF or a particular person but this is what happens when there is a joint collapse of the system,” he said.
He added: “The coach (Joaquim Carvalho) got a free hand in selecting the team, the government cleared the team for Santiago, so there is a collective responsibility. We are not trying to sweep things under the carpet, we are here to answer queries and in the process of finding a solution to the current mess.”
What he refused to take into account was that the incumbent IHF president KPS Gill has been in office for 14 years, and in that period the game has only gone down.
He was also not above contradictions. “It's not like things have suddenly gone down. We haven't done anything worthwhile in hockey since the 1964 Olympics,” he said.
But when asked why, despite being aware of the same for so long, the IOA did not take any action, he cited India's Asia Cup triumph last year to prove that things were not that bad!
On the issue of autonomy too, he appeared unclear. Under the Olympic charter, National Sports Federations (NSFs) are expected to be free of government interference. But Randhir Singh had a different take. “Autonomy is not equal to bad governance. We cannot expect autonomy when our own house is murky and by messing around with the IOC,” he said.
At the same time, he insisted that the IHF was an autonomous body and no one could direct it to perform in a particular way. “For us to say who has to step down or not is not correct… but we can talk to the federation and work out a solution,” he said. On being reminded that the IOA was empowered under the Olympic Charter to take action against national associations — something that was done in 1974, when an ad hoc committee was formed — Randhir Singh reiterated that he would be meeting IHF next week to work out a solution.
As for government support, while on the one hand he said that the Archery Association of India had not got any new equipment for the last four years — blaming the government for it — he also said that the AAI was generating funds on its own, with the Mittal Foundation paying for the coach!
Perhaps the most telling comment came towards the end. Told that having called the media, he could not avoid answering their questions, Randhir Singh rounded off the proceedings by saying: “There's been enough questioning, not let's enjoy refreshments.”
So much for an honest assessment!