India scoop up FIH awards, Olympic champions Belgium cry foul
- Six Indian players and the men’s and women’s coaches claimed the top prizes after getting the maximum number of votes.
For the first time ever, India swept the eight international hockey federation (FIH) annual awards with drag-flickers Harmanpreet Singh and Gurjit Kaur claiming the Player of the Year honours in men and women on Wednesday.
It took a controversial turn though when the Belgium association expressed disappointment over the failure of the voting system after none of their players won any award despite their world champion men’s team winning the Tokyo Olympics gold besides being world No.1 and the Pro League champions.
“Hockey Belgium is very disappointed with the outcome of FIH Hockey Star Awards. A gold winning team with multiple nominees in all categories but doesn’t win a single award demonstrates the failure of the voting system. We will work with FIH to ensure a fairer system in the future,” the federation tweeted.
The Belgium team handle backed the federation: “We fully agree! This is not normal! The credibility and image of our sport is once again facing hard times. It’s a pity FIH Hockey!”
It prompted FIH to clarify that the voting process was clearly communicated beforehand and that they will conduct a review and “make adjustments wherever deemed necessary”.
When contacted, the Belgium federation spokesperson said the “tweet is our statement”.
Six Indian players and the men’s and women’s coaches claimed the top prizes after getting the maximum number of votes. Apart from Harmanpreet (6) and Gurjit (4)—they were India’s highest goal-scorers in Tokyo—PR Sreejesh and Savita Punia won the Goalkeeper of the Year award in men’s and women’s section. Sharmila Devi and Vivek Sagar Prasad—his successive award—were given the Rising Star of the Year awards. Graham Reid, who took the men’s team to bronze, their first medal in 41 years, and Sjoerd Marijne, who stepped down after guiding the women to fourth, were voted the best coaches.
For Belgium men, Alexander Hendrickx and Arthur van Doren were voted the second and third best players with Vincent Vanasch named the second best goalkeeper and Shane McLeod the second best coach.
Since the inception of the awards in the late 1990s, Indian players have been nominated but never won a FIH award until last year when men’s team skipper Manpreet Singh won the Player of the Year honour and Prasad and Lalremsiami (women) took home the Rising Star of the Year awards. There were no awards in 2020 due to Covid-19. This year’s awards covered the period from January 2020 to Tokyo 2020. The voting process started on August 23 and concluded on September 15.
There has been euphoria following the performances of the Indian hockey teams in Tokyo and the voting for the awards has thus been heavily in their favour.
The voting process is such that 50 % of the votes come from national associations—represented by captains and coaches, 25 % by the media and the final 25 % by fans and players. It is significant that only 79 of the 138 national associations voted with most dropping out of Africa (11 voted out of 25), Europe (19 out of 42) and Pan America (17 out of 30). In a statement, FIH said it will try to establish why some national associations failed to vote.
A record number of 300,000 fans—a large chunk belonging to the Indian subcontinent—also cast their votes, which likely tilted the awards in favour of Indian nominees.
The Fifa awards are seen as the gold standard. The individual awards (best player, coach, goalkeeper) for the men and women are chosen through votes. The head coach, the national team captain and a journalist from each of the 211 member associates are allowed one vote each. Fans too get to vote after registering on the Fifa website. Votes of fans, coach, captain and journalist get equal weightage. After the results are declared, the votes of each member country (captain, coach and journalist) are made available on the Fifa website.
However, in football, Indian players are not in the reckoning and hence voting in big numbers by their fans does not become a factor.
(with inputs from Dhiman Sarkar)