The Indian Hockey team recently defeated arch-rivals Pakistan in The Asian Champions Trophy tournament to lift the maiden title of Champions of Hockey in Asia.
The win brought with it immense pride for the team and followers of the game of hockey in India. The team was welcomed at the airport to sounds of joyous dhol and slogans cheering them.
The celebrations ended there.
The team was handed out pittance of INR 25,000 for each player by the Sports Minister, Ajay Maken, the following day. A huge furore, both by citizens and media, on doling out such a pittance made Maken state that the amount was given on behalf of Hockey India.
Question: If the ‘prize money’ was from Hockey India, why was Maken doling it out?
Question: If Maken later came back with INR 150,000 for each member after the furore, why couldn’t the same step have been taken earlier?
The answer is simple: Hockey doesn’t pay a Maken as cricket does to a Pawar.
As an Indian, I have been fed, throughout my school life, that Hockey is India’s national sport. Every piece of text regarding India in every general knowledge book in Indian schools has to mention that. The fact is that it is as far from reality as the thought that Sunny Deol can one day dance like Hrithik Roshan.
Sports in India are about the money the federations get in return rather than being about the results they can get by putting the money in.
A quick comparison between the money flowing in for cricket and hockey would put the picture straight; this might appear as a punch in the face as you read it.
Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) earns tonnes of money and spends the same commensurate to the income. The funds available with Hockey India do not even warrant a comparison with BCCI. The comparison, though, needs to be brought out to rest the debate once and for all about the state our National Sport is in.
The primary problem of lack of funds has been identified. There is a point of reference that the administrators must analyse and set a goal to work towards.
This brings us to the second problem that has plagued Hockey in India for a long time – Administrators.
The International Hockey Federation recently stripped India of the hosting rights for 2011 Champions Trophy as the government was not able to form a single federation, bringing Hockey India and Indian Hockey Federation together. This squabble over controlling Hockey in India has been going on since India hosted the Hockey World Cup in 2010 and the issue does not seem to get to a constructive end.
This has essentially made a mockery of Hockey in India many a times with the most recent gut-punch coming with the 2011 Champions Trophy moving to New Zealand. BCCI functionaries have been criticised as having no connection with the sport and still managing the reins of the Board. What people forget is that they are Administrators and are there to manage the finances of the Board that the sportsperson might not have the mettle for. After all, they all are seasoned businessmen too!
Look at the state of all the sports federations in India. They are managed by sportspersons that have proved time and again that they are not great administrators. Ego clashes between ex-sportspersons are a given and they are essentia;ly ruining the sports federations. Such federations are managed by politicians who have neither been associated with the sports or with the business aspect of it. This is the key differentiator between Hockey and Cricket.
What Hickey India today requires is a panel of administrators who can go and sell the sport to corporates. Who can bring in the much desired money that is required to build the next generation of warriors on the field that Indian Hockey players once were.
Pride of representing the country and winning trophies fills the spirit of a sportperson, it does not fill their stomachs. This is a harsh reality that most of us sitting in our living rooms discount and say that it is the pride that must matter and not the monetary benefits. I bet that the people who write such comments or have such a mindset would never have taken time off their jobs and volunteered for a year, earning INR 10,000 a month. They cannot, as they have families to feed. If they connect the dots, they would realise that the times have changed and Hockey needs to be glamorised as a sport and must be sold to the people.
Your thoughts are welcome.