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Favoured sport fails to deliver

New Delhi: The pathetic display of India in the ongoing hockey World Cup in the Netherlands has raised serious questions as to why a discipline that gets huge amount of monetary support does so badly internationally.

The Sports Authority of India (SAI)’s policy, to allocate huge funds to a game that has failed to make any impression at the international arena for several years, has come under scrutiny.

Having failed to make the semi-finals of either the Olympics or World Cup since 1980, Indian hockey reached its nadir when India failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. When they clawed back to the Olympics fold in London (2012), they finished at the lowest rung (12th among 12 teams).

In the Netherlands World Cup, the Sardar Singh-led India, coached by Terry Walsh, could not even do justice to their world ranking of eight. After being thrashed by Australia 0-4 in their last match, Indian would now fight for the 9 th position with South Korea on Saturday.

Yet, in the budgetary allocation for 2013-14, SAI decided to keep aside Rs 10.5 crore for hockey, far more than most other disciplines. As if, that was not enough, an additional Rs 9.5 crore was released for men’s and women’s hockey teams, with the approval of the office of the Director General of the SAI.

Some other disciplines had also been alloted additional grants, but the money had not reached most of them after SAI’s demand for an additional Rs 39 crore was not approved by the finance ministry.

With Rs 20 crore as total allocation for the 2013-14, hockey stood on a par with shooting (Rs. 20 crore). But while the shooters earned four medals, including a gold, for India in the last three Olympics, hockey’s contribution has been close to zilch.

Hockey was more flush with grants than medal-winning disciplines like boxing (Rs. 18.62 crore), badminton (Rs. 11.55 crore) and wrestling (Rs. 13 crore).

“Performance was never the criteria while giving preference to hockey,” complained a senior official of another sports federation. “The sentiments about past glory and lobbying power of some senior officials made it possible for them to get what they wanted,” he added.

“The fund was released for both men’s and women’s teams,” clarified SAI secretary Neeraj Kansal.

“The performance of the hockey team has indeed belied our expectations to some extent. We would review the situation once the team returns home,” he added.

While hockey received the additional fund, football was never given the Rs. 4.64 crore that was promised to the soccer federation over and above the actual grant of Rs 3.09 crore. Rs 1 crore was promised to wushu, but was not released in the end.

The Indian hockey team has a set of foreign coaches and their salaries are paid from government funds.

SAI sources said that while the Dutch coach Roelant Oltman, who is the high performance director of Hockey India (HI), receives a salary of $15,000 per month. For chief coach Terry Walsh, the monthly remuneration is $12,500.

“Even the two scientific advisors, who are Australians, receive around (Aus) $5,000 per month,” the source said.