February 26, 2013: Hockey India and Government were questioned for the lack of funds for the National Game of country, Hockey, by the fans in social media, when the news of Indian Hockey Team’s withdrawal from Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2013 broke out. But later in the evening, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) cleared the trip with a warning to Hockey India. Why all this?
According to a media release from Hockey India, “In the sanction given by Sports Authority of India (SAI) to Hockey India regarding the men’s team participation in the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament, it is mentioned that Indian Men team will play this tournament at no cost to government. The only obligation to the government for this tour was to cover airfare cost of the team but in the sanction given by SAI it is clearly mentioned that government is not covering any cost. Therefore Hockey India has been forced to withdraw its participation from the tournament. Government has always covered the airfare of the team for this tournament till date.“
But, what’s wrong? Hockey India could have bought the air tickets for the team which would cost them Rs. 10,00,000/- (approximately) after having generated a good amount of revenue from recent sponsorship deals e.g. with Cairn India, etc. without making statements like “Hockey India has been forced to withdraw the participation of its Senior National Men team from the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament to be played at Ipoh in Malaysia from 9-17 March 2013.” On the other hand, does Government not have such a small amount for the National Game, Hockey?
According to reports in media, Sports ministry has an annual budget of Rs. 5.94 crores for Hockey India, but they crossed it have already spent Rs. 11.27 crores. Hence SAI didn’t clear the case and forwarded it to ministry. And it was later cleared by the Sports Ministry considering the importance of Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in terms of exposure for the team and prestige associated with it.
Was SAI wrong somewhere? I don’t think so. As Hockey India had already crossed their sanctioned budget, SAI was right in not allocating more money for Hockey India, on the similar lines of Hockey India’s decision of derecognizing Air India due to non-payment of their annual membership fees since 2010-11. The decision of Air India derecognition as Hockey India was supported by the professionalism required in the development of any sport in the country, then Hockey India should have accepted the SAI’s sanction as they have already crossed the budget to set-up the example of professionalism.
Earlier this month, Hockey India Selectors and Government Observer announced 18 member team for the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Cup which will be led by Danish Mujtaba while PR Sreejesh as the Vice Captain.
Sultan Azlan Shah Cup only invitational hockey tournament outside the International Hockey Federation (FIH) calendar with such a long and prestigious history. India has never missed its participation in the tournament since the very first edition in 1983 and has won the title on five occasions. In the last edition played in 2012, India finished at third position and in 2010 were joint winners with Korea.