Friday, September 16, 2011

FIH checkmate India

By S.Thyagarajan

Leandro Negre was forthright. He stated without a hint of ambiguity the perception of the FIH to the mess that hockey is in India.
“Toe the line or face the music” was the FIH President's refrain in Delhi.
The belligerence of the FIH surprises none. Even as officials were preparing to plead for a re-think on the Champions Trophy, a note that Auckland will host it was being circulated. The timing was impeccable. It silenced any debate from the Indian side.
More disturbing are the hints thrown about disaffiliation. The FIH is consciously avoiding confirmation of the Olympic qualifier sanctioned to New Delhi in March. This coupled with the threat of disaffiliation puts India under pressure.
The FIH probably does not see India anymore as the financial cow to be milked at will. The lessons coming out of the Hero Honda World Cup are compelling the FIH to re-work its strategy of enlarging the financial muscle of the federation using India as a catalyst.

A major component

The thinking in the FIH was definitely on making capital out of India. The passion for the sport, the TV ratings of the India-Pakistan opener, the incredible crowd following matching the fervour of soccer in Europe, all showed India as the major component in the FIH' s financial schemes.
Now, the irritants of red-tape and complexities in transferring funds quickly are intimidating. The FIH therefore is not hesitating to flourish the disaffiliation card and the option of taking away the Olympic qualifier.
This is a challenge. Whether the agencies fighting for governance are cohesive enough to overcome is a moot question. The cacophony of voices in the administration makes it clear that there is no meeting point.
Beyond a point, the Sports Ministry is shackled as a facilitator. The rival factions spurn every attempt at unification, buffeted by legal observations and prevarication.
The trophy triumph at Ordos in the Asian Champions Trophy has come not a day too soon. Perhaps it is a coincidence that the FIH was in Delhi when the team arrived to a warm welcome and felicitations.
The outcome should send the correct signal to the FIH that India as an entity cannot be trifled with. Disqualifying a country with a shining record of eight Olympic gold medals from playing hockey is akin to FIFA prohibiting Brazil and from playing international soccer.
Does the FIH sincerely believe it can monitor a major Olympic discipline without India in its roll?
Whatever loophole it may figure out to discipline the administration, will such a step get for it a consensus?
Hockey players, coaches, administrators and aficionados everywhere speak in one voice underlining the need for India to be back as a major force.
The issue of disaffiliation hanging like the sword of Damocles may help the FIH to keep alive a threat.
But enforcing it in the Olympic year will dent its image in the eyes of the international sports community. Will IOC countenance such a measure?
This does not imply the FIH's threat is empty. It is projected as an instrument to introduce an element of urgency in solving the problems.
Unless a unified federation is shaped quickly pin-pricks from the FIH will continue.
In the interest of the sport, which is showing signs of resurgence at Ordos, Hockey India and Indian Hockey Federation cannot further delay a nuanced integration acceptable to IOA and the FIH.
Time is running out for all.

No room for mistakes in TNB-MHL

THERE is no room for mistakes in the six-week TNB- Malaysia Hockey League (MHL), and fitness could well decide who gets their hands on the three silverware up for grabs starting today.
Tenaga Nasional and Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) will square off in the Charity Shield at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil tonight, and the losing team could well find themselves in a tight spot.
“This is a very short League and so we can’t afford to drop any points as there is no return leg like last season.
“Also, we will playing back-to-back matches and fitness would come into play in the first week itself,” said KLHC skipper Azlan Misron.
Azlan is a national trainee, but was left out of the Asian Champions Trophy, and so he is ready for the League unlike Tenaga Nasional skipper Madzli Ikmar.
“I just returned from Ordos (Asian Champions Trophy) two days ago and after playing some highly competitive matches, I do feel a little tired.
“However, hockey is a team sport and I believe my team- mates are ready to give their best in the Charity Shield which comes with three valuable points,” said Madzli.
There are nine national trainees in Tenaga while KLHC have the equal number.
The other teams in the Premier Division are Maybank. Sapura, UiTM, UniKL, Yayasan Negri Sembilan, Armed Forces and Nur Insafi.
There are only five teams in Division One and they are Ipoh City Hall , SSTMI-Thunderbolt, Bukit Jalil Sports School, Uniten and UNIMAP.
The development side in the MHL is UniKL, who have been the front runners in grooming players, but have suffered a high turn-over.
UniKL team manager Amir Azhar said: “We are only three years old, and the turn over had been very high because other clubs can offer them more cash.
“However, we are not too worried, as we have eleven Project 2013 players in the squad, and they will be beefed up by four former national trainees, former national S. Sel varaju and also five national under-18 players.”
UniKL lost three influential players in Amir Farid to Tenaga, Mohamed Syamim to KLHC after the conclusion of the last Junior Hockey League and last season’s JHL top scorer Mohamed Zulhairi to Maybank.
Sapura, Yayasan Negri Sembilan and UiTM will be fielding foreign players, but it looks like KLHC and Tenaga are going to share the Charity Shield, League title and TNB-Cup this year.
TODAY: Division One -- Uniten v Ipoh City Hall (Tun Razak 5pm), BJSS v UNIMAP (Education Ministry, 8pm).
Premier League -- (Charity Shield): KL Hockey Club v Tenaga Nasional (National Hockey Stadium, 8pm).
TOMORROW: Division One -- SSTMI-Thunderbolt v Uniten (Education Ministry, 5pm), Ipoh City Hall v BJSS (Azlan Shah Stadium, 5pm).
Premier League: Armed Forces Airod v Sapura (National Stadium, 4pm), Uitm v UniKL (National Stadium, 6pm), Nur Insafi Penang v Yayasan Negri Sembilan (National Stadium, 8pm).