We have barely warmed ourselves to the World Series Hockey and the league is already plagued by controversies. To begin with, the infamous spat between Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Hockey India (HI). The International Hockey Federation (FIH) does not recognize the IHF, but Hockey India as the national governing board for Indian hockey. The battle of the boards – Hockey India and IHF almost ruined India’s Olympic chances and led to missed opportunities for the Indian Hockey team to play with some international teams. After an impressive win against Pakistan at the Asian Championships 2011, the Indian players were offered trifles as rewards. A paltry sum of Rs 25,000 was offered to each player by the governing hockey boards to the winners of an International Tournament. An outright criticism and denial to accept the nothings actually had the Sports Minister step in to announce a decent reward.
More woes with FIH’s refusal to sanction the series, because of it not being organized by Hockey India! Players joining the league according to FIH and Hockey India were to be suspended from International matches, including the Olympic qualifiers. Top players then pulled out of the league and statuses of the participating players still remain ambiguous. The storm did not end there – FIH president recently warned the players to participate in the series at their own risk. With a career at stake, the Indian players who have already signed up for this “unsanctioned league” are at crossroads. Indian players are clear about not wanting to upset Hockey India, but the lucrative series is a way to make a quick buck. Trouble is just not brewing in the India; top Pakistan Hockey players have decided to participate in the series, defying the Pakistan Hockey Federation’s directive not to do so.
If the warring boards can look past their petty battles and place the sport over their ego, the World Series can be the perfect platform for India to make waves into International Hockey. For the ultimate loser if conflicts are not resolved is the Indian Hockey Team. We are just getting back on our feet after the Beijing 2008 debacle and Indian hockey needs to focus its energies into the sport and not on the scandals associated with it.
- Kavitha Mhatre