Chandigarh: The national sports of the country came face to face with yet another controversy as organisers of a charity event on Saturday claimed that the players demanded Rs 5 crore to feature in the matches; an allegation which has been vehemently denied by the national team members.
Hardeep Sandhu, a member of the organiser committe of AMR foundation, on Saturday claimed that hockey players led by Prabhjot Singh, Rajpal Singh and Deepak Thaukar were demanding a Rs 5 crore to play in the four charity matches of 15 minutes each featuring Bollywood and TV stars.
“AMR foundation had roped in 22 players to feature in four exhibition matches with Bollywood and TV stars but when yesterday one of the representatives of the organisers handed them the flight tickets from New Delhi to Chandigarh, a group of players told they don’t want these tickets as they are not gaining anything,” Sandhu said.
“Players said they were expecting 4 to 5 crore from sponsorship. Now that not much sponsors are coming, they refused to play. The organisers are very upset as despite written agreement they are backing out,” he added.
However, Prabhjot, Rajpal and Deepak rubbished the allegations and after landing here said they would have a meeting with the organisers and also demanded an apology from the organisers.
“This is absolutely baseless. It baffles me why organisers are making such allegations at this moment. I smell a conspiracy here. There is no demand of money, we know it is charity match,” Rajpal said.
“We will be meeting the organisers and playing the match is secondary issue now. It is a big allegations that have been leveled against the players and organizers should clarify. That is why only there players have come and rest are in Delhi,” he added.
AMR Foundation spokesman Ansul Nagar said that there was no particular deal and they had just planned to give the sponsorship money from the charity match to the players.
“There was no deal. There was an emotional call, where in we would be having this event in which all sponsors would come in, all money would be given to the players directly and now they are talking about 4-5 crores,” he said.
Deepak, on the other hand, said that some of the players were not given flight tickets and they had demanded for the tickets and also claimed that the organisers had not confirmed their participation.
Some people have already doubted the importance of the matches as they could lead to some freak injuries to the players.
"The entire concept defies logic," said three-time Olympic gold medalist Balbir Singh senior.
Former India coach Sukhvir Grewal remarked, "Chances of players picking up injuries is slim, as they will play exhibition games with full precaution. But what worries me is that the event will surely affect the concentration level of the players with the World Cup just a week away. When the team gets a break at this stage, the players should focus more on the forthcoming event rather than travel to play charity matches."
“Why it has erupted I don’t know. The only point that we had is a couple of players were not given tickets and we wanted they should be given the tickets. Organisers should apologise for the allegations,” he said.
“They have kept us in the dark about the details of the match. We were not clarified or confirmed told anything about the timing or any details,” he added.
Suspecting foul play behind the allegations, India captain Rajpal Singh said the players will not turn out for the charity match until a clarification was given on behalf of the organisers.
“We are not going to play the match. The organisers have leveled allegations which they have not been able to substantiate. They want to destroy our team unity before the World Cup,” he said.
“They should first clarify why they have done this. They should come on record and say who among the three players (Deepak Thakur and Prabhhjot Singh being the other two) demanded the Rs five crore money,” Rajpal added.
Asked whether they are thinking of filing a defamation suit against the AMR Foundation, the organisers of the event, Rajpal said, “Presently our first priority is World Cup. We will think about other things after the World Cup.”
Meanwhile, Bollywood actor Suniel Shetty, who landed here this afternoon to take part in the match, expressed astonishment over the development.
“I was baffled to hear about the matter. Why such a thing has occurred I don’t know. I learned about it just before boarding the flight in Mumbai. I hope things would be sorted out soon,” Shetty said.
Rajpal said in the entire three-hour long meeting at no point of time the organisers were ready to accept that they had levelled baseless allegations.
“We asked them to prove their allegations. We give our sweat and blood for the country and there is no way we can take such allegations,” he said.
Later as a saving grace, the organisers managed to romp in few television stars who had reached here to play the exhibition match in the evening together with some of the local players.