Hockey paid the price

BY their own admission, Tuesday's showdown between Hockey India (HI) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials over who picks the tab for airfares for the Azlan Shah Cup-bound team was a case of one trying to show the other who's the boss.

No one emerged a winner from this unnecessary war of words but the apathy and mistrust that continues to plague Indian sport came to the fore yet again. If the government fails to sanction a particular tour, shouldn't it be the duty of the national body to take care of the team's interests?

The incident came as a bad advertisement for both parties involved. Over the last few years, the government has done enough to ensure that athletes' interests are safeguarded and money isn't a deterrent anymore. Hockey, too, has never before been in better health, financially. The national team has three major sponsors at the moment, a rarity for the sport. The government too had earmarked a substantial amount for hockey.

Moreover, the money that Hockey India League injected into the sport and its subsequent success helped changing the manner in which hockey was perceived.

So, at a time when we were talking about providing players with world-class equipment and facilities, to fight over an issue as petty as airfares is bemusing. SAI claimed that HI had already overshot their budget considerably (according to a figure provided by them, HI had spent Rs 11.77 crore whereas they had been allocated Rs 5.5 crore) and had been ordered to spend carefully. HI's contention was that the government was retaliating on 'expected lines' after it made a police complaint against a SAI employee.

The altercation has kicked up a cloud of mistrust and highlighted the ego-problems among the officials. For the overall betterment of Indian sport, all the stakeholders need to work in tandem and think on the same page and also refrain from brinkmanship and arbitrary threats of pulling out from important tournaments.

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