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Hockey ends on another shameful low

A hockey coach bit off a player's hand and another black chapter was added to Indian hockey.

othersports Updated: Jan 01, 2006 23:02 IST

A hockey coach bit off a player's hand and another black chapter was added to Indian hockey.
For the 4,000-odd gathered at the Shivaji Stadium on Friday, it was expected to be yet another sunny day of good hockey and a chance to view some of India's best players in action. In a year that saw dismal performances, the end of 2005 saw Indian hockey plunge to a new low when violence marred the STC Nehru hockey tournament.

A day after several players clashed on field, one saw the ugly face of the game resurface when Namdhari XI and their supporters beat up Indian Oil players, exchanged abuses, and relented only after the police were called in to rein in the warring teams.

The feud left IOC with several injured players and an angry coach who threatened to pull out, and the Namdharis with a reputation of being sore losers and troublemakers. Things perhaps can't get any worse for the game, and hockey could well have done without the incident that left both the public and players shocked and disgusted.

"This is unacceptable from a coach and the players. They are bad losers and they are not fit to play," said an angry IOC coach Joaquim Carvalho. "Every time it is the IOC chaps who get beaten up but this time we won't let it go unnoticed," he added.

On the surface, it was Namdhari's anger at two of their players joining IOC - Didar Singh and Sardar Singh. But the root cause of the incident goes back to Thursday's clash between Army and IOC. Sources say the Namdharis were supporting Army and hurling abuses at IOC, which led to some retaliation.

On Friday, Namdharis had more than one 'reason' to turn on IOC: They had lost the semi-final, they were still smouldering under the reported insults from Thursday and two of their good players had jumped board. The result: It all came out on IOC's Inderjeet Singh Chadha and goalkeeper Baljit Singh - who reportedly abused the Namdharis, with their coach egging then on.

Soon after, it was a free-for-all between IOC and Namdharis and their supporters. But in the midst of all this, the one person who paid the heaviest price was Deepak Thakur. The dashing India striker, who tries to play peacemaker every time matters heat up, seems jinxed where violence in domestic hockey is concerned. On Friday too, even as Thakur tried to separate the players, he was actually bitten by Namdhari coach Deedar Singh! "Even I was shocked. I was trying to take him away, and suddenly I saw my hand was bleeding where he had bitten me. Then I was hit by sticks, I still can't figure out where all I have been hit," said Thakur. All this happened in the presence of legendary players like Ashok Kumar, Zafar Iqbal and Dhanraj Pillay, who were discussing the first semis. The stalwarts had to rush in to separate the players. The police had to be called in and an FIR lodged by IOC.

The twist in the tale? IOC lost the match and set up a clash for third spot with the Namdharis. But Carvalho has written to the tournament committee stressing his team won't play - "this thing can happen again, my boys can't play them without any security", he said. Nehru society secretary Shiv Kumar Verma said the match had been "postponed" and a decision was pending. Saturday's final: Indian Airlines vs PSB (3 pm) IA IN FINAL: On field it was all work for Indian Airlines as the nine-time champions beat Namdharis 2-0, Sandeep Singh scoring both the goals off penalty corners. In the other semi-final, PSB beat IOC 2-1 to set up title clash with IA. Navpreet Singh and Ajit Pal Singh scored for the winners while Prabhjot Singh scored for the losers.

First Published: Jan 01, 2006 23:02 IST