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March 23, 2008
Organiser Home
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March 23, 2008

Page: 7/32

Home > 2008 Issues > March 23, 2008

National game hockey
All time low: Thank you Mr. Gill

By Sri Krishna

He may have been a supercop who tackled terrorism in Punjab successfully but one success which would never be forgotten is his systematic decimation of the country?s national sport?hockey.

His masterful handling of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) ensured that the sport was put to the sword in the same manner as terrorists in Punjab with the game touching its nadir on March 9 as for the first time in 80 years India will be missing from the Olympics when it is being held next door in China this year.

It is indeed sad that in a game which for long had been a definite Olympic medal prospect, the Indian team would be missing.

As though getting knocked out is not enough, the supercop Gill goes on to say ?we don?t have an instant coffee machine that you can get results instantly. It takes time to regain your position. We have put the process in place, the results will take some time.?

Well, one thing is for sure that ever since he took over the IHF in 1994 the downward slide of Indian hockey had been ?instant? starting from that year itself.

At the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games after the team got the silver medal, coach Zafar Iqbal who was an Olympian himself, was sacked. In fact, Shri Gill has the expertise in sacking coaches even when they brought success which was only once since his take over as IHF supremo.

The only time India won a gold medal during the 14 years that he has been dominating the hockey scene was in 1998 Asian Games at Bangkok. But, his instant reaction was to sack coach M.K. Kaushik for the mistake by the coach was to support the players.

Of course, Shri Gill too had the ?distinction? of winning a ?gold medal? for the country at the Olympics for at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics he secured a gold pass enabling to witness events from the VIP enclosure.

Why grudge such an honour for a person who has ensured that Indian hockey is reduced to the level when it not only fails to qualify for the Olympics but maybe a loss to even countries like Bhutan or Maldives.

Of course, when questioned by the media on why this decline in Indian hockey, the angry response from this cop is ?have you played hockey? I used to play it in school.?

Well, one should thank Shri Gill that Indian hockey has been brought to the level at which the great cop himself played.

For once at least the fault is not with the players but lies more with the administrators specially the IHF which has like almost every other sports body in this country been the monopoly of an individual who runs it at his own whims and fancies.

Instead of merely beating our chests and crying hoarse over the setback, it is time there were professionals at the helm of sports bodies.

Cricket played by lesser number is more popular, thanks to the large amount of money being put into it and now with the tamasha of Indian Premier League about to begin with plenty of money thrown in by Bollywood stars and industrialists, hockey and other games would be further pushed into an abyss.

As one sports writer compared the decline of Indian hockey to a Bollywood film with the only difference being that this film had more villains rather than heroes chasing heroines.

According to former hockey star Viren Rasquinha who out of disgust decided to call it a day, the situation now is that infrastructure is seriously lacking in India and in a city like Mumbai there is one astro-turf pitch while in a smaller town like Stuttgart in Germany, there are 20 synthetic turfs.

There is no dearth of talent in the country but it is only matter of proper organisation and management with incentives that can attract the best to the game in the country.

The Santiago debacle should at least be an eye opener for the powers that be in the Indian hockey and sports authorities on the mess in the game that was once our pride and honour and winning an Olympic gold medal used to be foregone conclusion.

Though tears may be shed?crocodile or otherwise?one may become emotional and rave and rant, but unless concrete steps are taken to change the system that governs the sport in the country, it will be running in the same spot, and nobody will be the wiser for it.

Of course, there also seems to be a stoic attitude taken by several former hockey players as many had foreseen the shape of things to come under the guidance of the supercop.

Some of them felt that this was indeed ?shock therapy? and were hopeful that the IHF would now at least wake up from its Rip Van Winkle attitude though with Shri Gill on top of the IHF hill, it appears doubtful.

As former Indian captain and Olympian Balbir Singh senior said, ?I feel I have lost a close relative. We have to rectify the system as a whole.?

Said another former Indian international known for his mercurial skill with the stick, Dhanraj Pillay who cried himself to sleep after the debacle, ?Whatever you say is not enough. This is the worst day for Indian hockey. I?ve been crying myself hoarse for a while now. The IHF never tried to take the help of players like me who played for the country so long.?

It only seems Shri Gill will now continue to only fill the bill of ensuring that some ?instant solution? is found. What that solution would be is best left to him. At least for now one can only say this about Indian hockey ?RIP,? with the epitaph ?here lies buried what was once India?s pride and national game.?

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