Can any of you(including me!!) reading this message tell the names of all the current players of the Indian Hockey team without looking out online? I doubt any of you would be able to name even 5-6 leave all. But similarly if I were to ask you the names of all the current players of the Indian Cricket team, I am sure each one of you will be able to rattle off all their names along with even the Ranji players name who may not have played even a single match for the country. So why is this happening? The problem lies on many counts.
To our generation, who haven’t seen the likes of Dhyan Chand and the glory of days of Moscow in 1980 when the country won 8 golds, its like a shock when one gets to hear such great things about a sport which is in shambles today. The politicisation of hockey is one of the worst reasons for its decline. The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) now Hockey India (HI), has seen so much politics over the last two and a half decades that one’s starting to remember hockey in India for its politics rather than the players skills. KPS Gill has been the worst thing to happen to Indian Hockey ever. The politics he has played with a sport which is called the “National Sport of India” makes one disgusted to say the least.
The players complaints about poor food being served to the players and poor pay packages makes one feel really hurt. They are representing the nation on the world stage for god’s sake. The least the government can do is giving them proper food and money to sustain themselves. They are paid 25,000 for each tournament. Now that amounts to just a few thousand for each match. Compare that with lakhs cricketers earn with every four or six they hit. The irony is that the former is the NATIONAL SPORT. Is this the way one should treat a national sport?
You would wonder, how can a game where the country dominated the Olympics continously winning 6 Olympic Golds in a row from 1928 to 1956 see its present state? The basic fact lies at the grassroots level where cricket has such a great talent spotting and training structure which hockey lacks. Even in overall physical fitness and mental toughness the BCCI has done much more than the HI has. The Premier Hockey League (PHL) was started in 2005 to revive the viewer interest in this game. But seriously speaking has it managed to revive any interest in the game among the common public or the media (television and print)? I dont think so.
Since the time, KPS Gill was shown the door, India has performed creditably even winning the prestigious Azlan Shah Cup in 2009 and also winning the Asia Cup. But does it matter to anyone? They still lack the basic practice facilities, don’t get the credit for the performance from the media and over and above that aren’t even paid their basic salaries. Who would want to get into a game like this where a person cannot even earn enough money to sustain oneself.
The lesser said about the state of women’s hockey in India, the better. Even women’s cricket is in a better condition. Its an irony that despite not being able to give the salaries to the Indian players, AK Mattoo (President of Hockey India) has said that they will give the Indian team 1 crore each if they win the World Cup. So from where Mr Mattoo are you going to get that kind of money? Are you going to rob a bank? And above all this he has the guts to say that the players play for money and not the country. Dude get a life! Without money who will want to play. He drives Corollas and Mercedez and travels first class on flights but interestingly doesn’t have the money to pay the players. This happens only in Indian sports!
Some recommendations which a person called Anand Krishna has suggested which I agree with are listed here “http://anandkrishna.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/buck-de-india-say-our-hockey-players/”
HI can create a contract system so that players have a basic sense of financial security. This would at least make the players feel secure that they have something to look after their families. If raising funds is the problem, well, perhaps it is time to create an IPL for hockey, comprising players from India and the other main hockey playing nations like Germany, Australia, Spain, Pakistan, Holland, Malaysia, South Korea, New Zealand etc. Schedule it for a different period of time so that even TV channels are happy to cough up moolah for obtaining rights to live entertainment. And given that a hockey match takes less time than even a T20 match, one can have two matches every day.
Is anyone listening? Does HI have the will power to do such large scale changes? Thats a question only time will tell.
Perhaps even Bollywood did not think that they can spin a dream around the Indian men’s hockey team. Which is why the movie “Chak de India” celebrates the success of the Indian women’s hockey team.