Hockey row: Players pledge ‘fight for future’

Unperturbed by Mattoo`s threat, revolting players refused joining camp unless demands were met.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Displaying a large heart, the Indian hockey team’s players told reporters that they would go ahead and play on their own expenses in the upcoming World Cup next month if the apex body, Hockey India, was out of money. The only concern for them was that there was no assurity for the clearance of their dues in the future as well.

They were told that Sahara India had paid money to the federation till 2011 and they would get anything only after the time span is over.

“We never said that we prefer money over nation. We having been holding the Tricolour for the past many years and India will always remain our priority. If Hockey India allows we are ready to play in the forthcoming World Cup on our own personal expenses,” India’s revolting hockey players said after walking out of the failed meeting with Hockey India.

However, the players pressed on their demands for incentives which were promised to them. In a clear cut statement, the hockey players also expressed their desire of meeting with the national team sponsors. “There was no assurance from Hockey India on when will our earlier dues be cleared and hence we have collectively decided to skip all training facility until our demands are met.”

“Why are our officials not showing us the accounts if they don’t have money," one of the players said.

In a major embarrassment for HI, India’s national hockey players revealed to the press that the officials did not discuss anything, and in fact, bluntly said that the organization has no money to spend on them.

“Why are only we asked to think of the country? Should there be no accountability on officials of Hockey India?" players asked.

Expressing serious concerns about the future of hockey in the country, players who revolted said that they would continue with their fight against the system and for the glory of India’s national sport.

“We get USD 14 as our per day allowance when we tour abroad. That’s the amount on which we can’t even afford a cup of coffee,” a player said.

Captain Rajpal Singh and senior players Prabhjot Singh,
Dipak Thakur, Adrian D`Souza and Arjun Halappa said the HI
offer of Rs 25,000 per player would suit a school side and not
a national team and the rebel players are mentally prepared to
leave the training camp.

Dismissing HI allegation that the players put money
before national honour, Rajpal said, "We came here to practise
and not to skip training. And it`s not crime if we talk about
our rights.

"Hockey India said they don`t have money. In that case,
we don`t want to increase their burden and all 22 players are
ready to fund our own World Cup preparation. But the thing is
they have to give us written assurance which they are not
ready to do," Rajpal said.

HI president A K Mattoo had earlier made it clear that
since he was heading an ad-hoc committee which goes to poll on
February 7, he could not commit for the future.

HI also gave the players 48 hours to join the camp or
threatened to field a second string squad.

"We will see how that B team fares," one of the players
snarled from behind.

Striker Dipak Thakur also claimed that contrary to HI
claims, the players were not chasing money.

"Nothing comes before nation, not even money. And why is
it so that only the players have to think about the nation and
not the administrators?

"We have an important event round the corner and that`s
why we raised the issue now. Had we raised it earlier, it
would have been swept under the carpet," Dipak said,
justifying the timing of the revolt.

Prabhjot, meanwhile, was furious with the HI offer and
said it was humiliating for a national side.

"For God`s sake, this is not a school team that you offer
RS 25,000 per player. We expected something more sensible from
them.

"They promised us Rs 1 crore each if we win World Cup
and said they would get the money from wherever they can. Why
cannot they do the same now and give us the incentives for our
podium finishes last year?

"And if they really don`t have the money to run the
federation, why don`t they quit?" asked the forward.

Goalkeeper Adrian D`Souza was slightly more articulate
than his teammates who looked a tad confused and said the
players were fine with HI claims that they did not have enough
money but was surprised by their reluctance to give any
written assurance.

"They said they don`t have money. So we demanded a
meeting with the sponsor but they were not ready to arrange
even that. They called us greedy and here we are ready to fund
our own preparation," he said.

Conceding it was an unfortunate episode, D`Souza said the
players were sad about it.

"We don`t want it to go to the extent where India has to
field a `B` team and I can tell you that we would not be happy
and celebrate if we have to go back home from the camp," he
said.

"We want a written assurance so that we can show it if
the next HI set-up challenges our claims. You would not
believe we got a daily allowance of USD 20 in our last tour of
Argentina. And when we won the Azlan Shah Cup last year, the
amount was USD 14," D`Souza said.

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