Thursday, May 1, 2008

Real Chak De begins


NEW DELHI: "We should relax to some extent, but we have to work very hard. Everyone should combine and should help hockey to grow in our country like cricket. So if hockey is played like cricket, then we will become once again the world beaters. I am sure, there wouldn't be any problem," said an optimistic former Indian hockey captain Zafar Iqbal, one of the five members of the IOA appointed selection committee.
Indian hockey has been through a tumultuous journey for the past two decades. But with the 'aam janta' and media not taking things for granted, the chaos has finally ended. April 28, 2008 opened a new chapter in Indian hockey, when the controversial reigns were snatched away from the long serving President of Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) KPS Gill on charges of corruption and degrading the standards of the national sport. In a unanimous decision it was decided by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) that the IHF should be dissolved. The Gill era was bound to end."The decision has been taken unanimously by the IOA on this pretext that the functioning of the IHF is not in the right line or right direction. A lot of public pressure was also there. Everyone was trying best possible way to keep him out. Finally, the sting operation forced the Indian Olympic Association to take this drastic step. The public was also not in favour of the same body to continue in future," said Iqbal."Lots of media people were against him (KPS Gill). He was not answering to their questions," added the former Olympian.The IOA was triggered off to take the extreme step in the wake of the recent bribery scandal involving IHF secretary K Jothikumaran. The second man in command was caught in the sting operation done by a news channel, taking bribe for selecting a player for the national team."Earlier, there was no proof available. Only after the (bribing) scandal, then to a great extent there was a proof that something is going wrong in the selection process. And in selection if it is happening like this, like conducting international tournaments then there must be something wrong there also," said the former Indian hockey captain."So that was the main reason for dissolving the body (IHF). The media was also personally against Gill because he was not very co-operative with the press," added Iqbal.The whole operation of creating a new revolution in Indian hockey was further triggered with the IOA receiving a letter from the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to take appropriate action so as not to endanger India’s chances of hosting the World Cup in 2010."FIH is the international body and it is very much affiliated with the International Olympic Committee, and every international body like FIH and followed by Indian Olympic Association they have to follow or abide by all the rules of the Olympic charter.”"So as per the condition, they might have taken some legal opinion in this matter. I believe the IOA has also received a letter from FIH to look into the matter and see action must be taken against the existing body. So the IOA must have taken this line of action also," expressed Iqbal.The IOA announced that it would form a five-member committee that would look into the selection matters. Besides Iqbal, the five-member committee includes Aslam Sher Khan (chairman), Ashok Kumar, Ajitpal Singh, and Dhanraj Pillay. And the new brigade would ensure that the Indian hockey relives its glorious past once again."We want that hockey should get its popularity in a positive way. Youngsters should play more and more hockey so that hockey standards should go up in our own country. We have very important tournaments ahead, the World Cup, the Commonwealth Games and many more in between. So we want people should help promote hockey in all way. If hockey wants money, then facilities should be provided at base level also. So all these things should be there, otherwise it would be difficult for us to come up to the old glory."With the buzz doing rounds of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) being instrumental in providing aid to various other sports in India, Iqbal seems to be hopeful that the Indian cricket body would lend a helping hand to the national sport too, if required."They (BCCI) were cooperating in providing funds to the different federations for bringing up their games, say may be in hockey, and other games also. They have huge amount of money. They wanted to share some part of their amount with other federations to raise the standards in other games.""The ad hoc body will see to it, what line of action they want to take. And it will come out may be in near future," said Iqbal.For the moment, the selection reigns are in the hands of the five wise men. And the thinking hats would leave no stone unturned to revive the sport. It looks like Indian hockey has done a real 'Chak de' this time around. Perhaps, this was the much awaited turning point needed to improve the standards of the game that has hit its nadir.
The Times of India

IOA must steer clear in future


By S. Thyagarajan
Chennai: Avid chroniclers will describe the nearly decade-and-a-half reign of K.P.S. Gill as a turbulent period in hockey administration. Since he captured the reins in a tumultuous election at Bhopal in 1994 every move had come under intense media scrutiny for dissection, debate and denigration.

That all should end in the way it did on Monday causes a momentary spell of anguish. To be fair, it must be acknowledged that few federations had shown such a sustained interest in formulating a workable and successful junior programme in all age groups as the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF).
Nothing exemplified the efficacy of it than the triumph in the World Cup at Hobart in 2001. Then the success in several other continental age specific competitions has been remarkable. Time was when three teams were playing in different tournaments at the same period. All these tangible benefits were buried, and perhaps neutralised by various commissions and omissions that has forced the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to ensure a regime change. The evils that had caused enormous damage to IHF’s credibility were inconsistency in planning, lack of transparency and constitutional impropriety. The unparalleled shuffling of teams and coaches nauseated everyone.
Even officials who were part of the administration complain that they were in the dark about the moves or decisions taken on major issues. Progressively, homogeneity became the casualty, projecting a lack of understanding among senior functionaries. It was no secret that in recent months the relationship between the President and Secretary was strained. As for transparency, less said the better. Even the change of the selection committee after the Santiago disaster was news to many till the team was picked for the four-nation tournament. The nationwide shock over the failure to make it to the Olympics for the first time in 80 years triggered a cataclysmic chain. This was the moment for the officials to sit and introspect. But that was not to be. The resignation drama under the media glare, the anti-FIH stance, and amateurish handling of Charlesworth’s appointment all sullied the image further. Eventually, the administration met its Waterloo in a sting operation. This was hardly the time to enter into negotiations for tournaments, or sending teams abroad for competitions. It is ironical, and even tragic, that the Indian Olympic Association, which stood behind IHF when there was a demand for the resignation of Gill in the wake of the Chilean trauma should now show the door under pressure not only from FIH but also from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Now that the deed is done, it is for IOA to steer clear of further conflicts and controversies. The new selection committee under Aslam Sher Khan is Delhi-centric, save for the enigmatic Dhanraj Pillay, whose record in denting India’s image on and off the field is no exaggeration. The spat he had with the chief coach, Rajinder Singh (Sr) immediately after the Asia Cup triumph in 2003 is fresh in memory.That he never got on well with coaches from Balkishen Singh, Cedric D’Souza, Rajinder Singh (Sr) to V. Baskaran at different points of time is well documented. Nor did he get on well with the players. Ask Baljit Singh Dhillon. Now Adam Sinclair. That Dhanraj hails from the same place as the IOA chief is perhaps the deciding factor.
Why good thinkers of the game like Ashish Ballal, Subbiah and Mukesh Kumar were not considered remains a mystery. However, at this point, nominating the selection panel is illogical with no tours programmed. Making a player of the stature of Ajitpal Singh to work under Aslam Sher Khan is an affront. Whatever may be the compulsions to impose this exemplary punishment for the second time against a major sport only the negatives have been highlighted. Interestingly, the FIH under the towering leadership then of Rene Frank stood solidly behind Mr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy when Raja Bhalindra Singh slapped similar sanctions in 1975. Today, sadly, the prompter is FIH. While no tenure has been stipulated for the ad hoc committee, IOA must not delay the return of democracy to IHF. Without wasting time it should remove the cobwebs within the state units and prepare a genuine voters list. The sooner IOA does this the better it is for the apex body to demonstrate its credentials as upholders of ethics in sport.
The Hindu

Mas women lose to Canada


THE Malaysian women’s hockey team suffered their third straight defeat in the Olympic Qualifiers, when they were edged 1-0 by Canada in Vancouver on Wednesday.
South Korea and Ireland remained on course to meet in the final when they beat Italy 5-0 and Uruguay 1-0 respec tively.
Canada, looking to rebound from their two defeats, against Italy and Ireland, were encouraged by the local crowd, courageously filling the stands despite the cold wind, and controlled the opening stages.
Malaysia stayed composed and weathered the initial Cana dian push, then started to take more chances up field and forced veteran Canadian keeper Sarah Forbes into action. Canada tried hard, did most of the running and gave plenty of chances to the local fans to shout their hope, but the match went into the break scoreless.
Canada finally opened their tally in the 38th minute when Katie Rushton collected a ball lost by the Malaysian defense and slotted it out of reach of goalkeeper Ernawati Mah mud.
While the crowd was expecting Canada to immediately take advantage of their lead, it was Malaysia who then had the next scoring chances with a well taken penalty-corner and a shot from the top of the circle that was barely saved by Sarah.
But Canada held onto the slim lead, and now have a chance for playing in the bronze medal match.
RESULTS -- Malaysia 0 Canada 1, South Korea 5 Italy 0, Ireland 1 Uruguay 0.
TODAY: Malaysia v Italy, South Korea v Ireland, Canada v Uruguay.

The best for Azlan Shah


MALAYSIA will open accounts against Pakistan in the 17th Azlan Shah Cup which will be held in Ipoh, from May 8-18.
Pakistan, New Zealand, Belgium and Canada are the teams which have qualified for the Beijing Olympics, while Malaysia, Argentina and India will only be in the Cup as sparring partners.
National coach Sarjit Singh said he will select the best available, as many of his charges picked up injuries after the failed Japan Olympic Qualifiers.
"Being the hosts, naturally, we want to do our best in the Azlan Shah Cup. But since many of my players were injured after Japan, I might have to select a few from the back-up squad," said Sarjit.
And his target in this tournament is: "I want to see the players improve their game in every match. This is very important as we start preparations to do well in the Asia Cup next year.
"I don’t want to go through qualifiers anymore, as it is best we book the next world cup ticket at the Asia Cup itself.
The Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) have indicated that the Asia Cup might be held in Malaysia next year. The tour nament offers direct entry into the 2010 New Delhi World Cup.