Hockey India – like Alice in Blunderland

Posted: January 13, 2010 in Indian hockey
Tags: , , ,

I don’t know how many people remember Rajiv Mishra. At seventeen years of age, he was the star of the 1997 Junior World Cup hockey tournament. Even at that age he was touted the fastest thing on two legs on hockey turf. But a knee injury in 1998 at the World Cup camp, found the youngster in the wilderness
Sometime in mid-2000, Sharad Deep, a reporter with Hindustan Times, did a story about how some passengers on a train to Varanasi, found Mishra checking tickets. That was when he learnt of Mishra’s heartrending story. Of how the IHF under the tyrant KPS Gill, which should have nursed the youngster back to health, instead dumped him, and of how a distraught Mishra turned to booze and drank himself to sleep every night.
This reporter convinced Mishra to make a comeback. His view was that, at least, he shouldn’t have any regrets later in life. Mishra tried and failed and went back to checking tickets. But at least he realized it was better than going home drunk every night and crying himself to sleep.
Recently Sharad, (now a Principal Correspondent with the same newspaper) did another story on Mishra. He told me about how the former player was leading a hand-to-mouth existence. His salary was just Rs 15,000 of which around Rs 7,000 went into paying off a housing loan which left him with a measly Rs 7,000 to support himself, his wife and one-year-old daughter. The now defunct IHF still owed him Rs 20,000 incurred by him towards medical expenses. But Hockey India (HI) has so far refused to reimburse that amount or even a penny for his services to Indian hockey.
Sorry folks, in this country loyalty and patriotism do not put food on the table. What use patriotism when former sportspersons either die penniless or are found begging at street corners? With the pittance all sportspersons, except cricketers, are paid by their respective associations, why blame them for demanding more.
And since revolts seem to be the flavour of the season and I’ve been seeing quite a few lately, can we blame the Indian hockey players for staging one too? I completely agree with them for refusing to play until they are paid everything they are owed and also get compensated for representing their country. Especially when corrupt officials are lining their pockets with the funds meant for the sport.
“You’re playing for the country” is a very diplomatic way of saying if you don’t get paid for your troubles don’t complain. I’m OK with that to the extent that these rules be applied on everyone across the board without ANY exceptions. Will officials follow suit? Will they travel economy class and stay in sports hostels along with the team? Can officials use that as an excuse and deliberately withhold payment, while they enjoy five-star comforts, booze parties and demand sexual favours from female athletes in return for a place in the Indian squad?
Then there is this cockeyed argument that even abroad players are not paid for representing their country. Abroad, sportspersons have a support system backed by the government. They are assured jobs, medical benefits for them and their families, free education, and are not found begging on the streets and sleeping on pavements, unless they themselves press the self destruct button.
Incidentally, Sahara India had revised its annual contract with the Hockey India in October last year with a 30 per cent raise for Rs 1.78 crore. During the Asia Cup in Hyderabadsome months ago, the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation sponsored the tournament for Rs 50 lakh. What did HI do with the money?
They paid Rs 15 lakh to a shady event management company, which made a complete mess of the arrangements there. A reporter who was there told me that every evening the event management company organized a booze session at a fancy hotel for officials and scribes. That was the main item on their agenda. He told me a lot more scandalising stuff, which I cannot repeat here, for fear of being sued!
Some years ago a newspaper featured a picture of the captain of the Indian hockey team on the over-bridge at Ludhiana railway station, unrecognized. He was carrying his bags, his hockey stick and was on his way home. No one even knew he was. India had just lost a major international tournament and the captain had lost his job. He was going back to his life in obscurity at some police station in Punjab.
P.S. I just learnt from a friend that Sahara has released Rs one crore to be distributed immediately to the hockey players. Some good sense has finally prevailed.

  1. Roz says:

    I had no idea that things were this bad..i thought they must be getting some pension or income…the management is just eating thier salaries and should be brought to book.

  2. Zubin Kabraji says:

    One crore divided between 15 players comes to Rs 6.66 laks per player – a mere pittance compared to what you can earn in golf or tennis or cricket. But even if a sixth of the money reaches the hockey players, it will be a wonder.Sometimes I feel we are a nation of extraordinary thieves – we even would steel from the poor, infirm and blind, possibly from our very own kith and kin – given the opportunity.

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