Dhanraj slams FIH, HI after top players opt out of WSH camp

Bangalore: Upset at reports that top Indian players would not participate in the World Hockey Series beginning on Wednesday, former India captain Dhanraj Pillay on Tuesday slammed International Hockey Federation for "interfering" in the lucrative league and accused both FIH and Hockey India of playing "dirty" politics.

"It is disappointing that even FIH is interfering in a domestically-organised WSH," he told reporters here at the Jersey launch of the `Karnataka Lions` team here.

FIH Chief Leonardo Negre has been maintaining that it cannot give sanction to the WSH until the two warring factions -- Hockey India and Indian Hockey Federation -- reach an agreement.

FIH`s "ambiguous" stance on the issue has confused players and officials, Pillay said.

"HI should not have raised any objection for WSH since it will provide a platform for young hockey players to shopwcase their talent... It will also bring money to players," he said.

Pillay said both HI and FIH are playing "dirty" politics and spoiling the prospects of improving and making hockey competitive. "Are they really concerned of improving the standard of players and the game?" he asked.

Pillay, who represented India in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics, said the "clash of egos" (between HI and IHF) has played a damaging role in promoting the national sport.

"The sport and players are made to suffer for no fault of theirs," he said.

Top Indian players reportedly deciding to stay away from WSH, Pillay said they should have known about their availablity for the tournament before signing the agreement.

"It is disappointing that hardly 25 to 30 players have made themselves available for WSH," Pillay said.

Asked about non-inclusion of former Indian Hockey team Captain Arjun Halappa, he said, "Arjun not playing is a loss to the team. It is painful to note that player like Arjun is sitting out watching Olympic qualifier."

He commended India coach Michael Nobbs for the National Hockey team qualifying for London Olympics. "The team is playing good hockey since Nobbs took over as the national coach."

Pillay also expressed happiness over Nobbs being given a five-year contract and said this was the first time a long-term contract was signed which was good for the team.

He, however, advised Team India to work hard as they have not clashed with superior teams like Australia, Germany and Holland.

Replying to a question, Arjuna awardee Arjun Halappa, who was also present, said he did not know the reason for his being dropped from the Olympic squad.

"The reason given initially was lack of fitness but I am fit and playing tournaments. I may be victimised for no fault of mine," he added.