Hockey World Cup: Hockey India CEO in ‘nasty’ episode with top players
Damage control were the key words on Wednesday as Hockey India tried to play down an unsavoury incident that happened at the main stand at the Kalinga Stadium on Monday night and escalated on Tuesday.
Four Indian team members – captain Manpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh, Gurjant Singh and Krishan Pathak – who were watching the crossover games (Belgium vs Pakistan and Netherlands vs Canada) from West Stand VIP enclosure were rudely ejected by HI’s CEO Elena Norman.
According to officials, players are not allowed in the lounge areas reserved for VIPs and can watch matches from the general stands near the dugouts, exactly opposite to the VIP blocks.
What took the players and other guests by surprise is the way the HI top official barged into the lounge and yelled at the players, asking them to ‘get out’.
When contacted, Norman said: “I have no comment to offer.”
It is learnt that the players were shooed away to “ensure their safety.”
“The players are not allowed there. They could have been sanctioned for being in that zone. It is only for their safety that they were asked to leave,” said a HI official, on condition of anonymity.
“It was our fault. Players are not allowed to enter the lounge. I think it has been blown out of proportion,” said Manpreet while trying to play down the issue. India play the Netherlands on Thursday in a World Cup quarterfinal.
Asked if he was under pressure from the HI management, the India skipper said: “We are under no pressure. It was our mistake and we have been told. Elena and I share a good relationship.”
Another official, who witnessed the event, said the HI CEO was more angry about local authorities handing out lounge bands and entry passes to players. The relationship between Norman and top Odisha government officials have not been very cordial since the start of the World Cup.
But the treatment meted out to India’s top players evoked anti-Hockey India reactions.
State-level hockey coach Leo Devadoss, who was also in the VIP lounge, wrote on Facebook that he witnessed a “nasty episode”. Former international umpire Anupama Puchimanda and former India goalkeeper Ashish Ballal were also not happy with the latter terming the incident as “really pathetic behaviour”.