ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Playing Hookey with Sports in India

The repeated crises in Indian hockey are emblematic of the neglect and maladministration of sports.

The recent crisis in Indian hockey may have been solved, temporarily, but the larger crisis afflicting hockey, or Indian sports in general, remains as deep as ever. According to the players, Hockey India, the ad hoc body governing hockey till the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) is reconstituted, owed them “dues” of about Rs 4.5 lakh per head which they had been promised but not paid. They feared that they would not be paid once the World Cup, to be held next month in India, was over and therefore, like well-organised workers, they went on strike! Hockey India offered Rs 25,000 each and said it did not have funds for more. The players rejected this offer and alleged that there was no transparency in the administration and accounts of Hockey India. The latter accused the players of putting financial “gain” over “national interest”, but finally, the sponsors of the national team, Sahara, gave Rs one crore to tide over the crisis and the players returned to training. This solution has been designed specifically with an eye to the smooth conduct of the hockey World Cup and does not address any of the problems afflicting the administration of the game.

The present crisis of Indian hockey started when a television news channel broadcast images of the then secretary of the IHF, K Jyothikumaran accepting a bribe to select a player for the national team. The resultant public outcry and pressure from the international body resulted in the disbanding of the IHF by the Indian Olympic Association with a promise that all allegations of corruption and maladministration would be probed and a new body elected within a year. Many observers alleged that Jyothikumaran was actually the “fall guy” for the head of the IHF, K P S Gill, the former chief of Punjab police who is better known for his extrajudicial endeavours and the case of sexual harassment. Elections for a new body to govern Indian hockey were supposed to be complete by November 2009 but were, yet again, postponed because the state bodies are still divided and have not finished their own reorganisation.

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