As we cheer the Indian men’s hockey team’s win in Tokyo Olympics today, there was a time when our players faced the brunt of political negligence leaving them with no shoes or food supplements.
In an embarrassing anecdote from just a decade ago, the Indian men’s hockey players had no shoes to wear before the finals with Pakistan in Asian Champions Trophy.
Have seen some people bringing politics into hockey. Well, here is some politics for them to digest.— Vinayak (@vinayak_jain) August 5, 2021
First news is when Congress was in power. Second is Dhanraj Pillai lauding the Modi government for supporting hockey. Also, kudos to @Naveen_Odisha for his immense support! pic.twitter.com/ygNw2Ix3NF
In an interview with Times of India back in 2011, Arjuna awardee Rajpal Singh had talked about the apathy towards hockey players from Hockey India federation as well as the then government of India.
The interview was given right after Indian hockey team defeated the Pakistan team at Asian Champions Trophy where he revealed that the Indian team players did not even have proper shoes and had substandard kits to play the team with. This was just 3 years before the Modi government came to power. He mentioned that the attitude was one of the major concerns of hockey players as the Federation did not even show respect to the athletes.
“Players should be paid match fee”
Former Hockey team captain Dhanraj Pillay had also given a call in 2011 to pay players match fees. “The hockey players should be paid Rs 25,000 per international match. We used to subsist on a meagre allowance of USD 20 when we played for the country. We could not even invite our friends for a cup of coffee at the top hotels we stayed in or else go out of pocket,” said Pillay.
Pillay recently applauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his support for sports and hockey.
M.M. Somaya the three-time Olympian had said, “They play many internationals in a year and they should be financially secure. India’s international hockey players cannot be equated with those playing for college teams.”
“There’s a lot of pride in playing for the country. If the officials in the national federation cannot raise money, they don’t deserve to be there. If the federation has credibility, Corporate India will support hockey in a big way,” he added.
Indian hockey players were underweight
In another news from a decade ago, physiologist David John who had been with the Indian hockey team had remarked that the Indian players were underweight. John had said that the average weight of the Indian hockey team was 63 kg and wanted the players to add bulk as it would help in improving their fitness.
Fighting all the odds, several Indian players outshone in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics. Rani Rampal, the 26-year-old player who leads the Indian hockey team at the Tokyo Olympics, also shared her inspiring journey.
From barely having two square meals to practicing with a broken hockey stick to mixing milk with water, Rampal with her inspiring journey has done every Indian proud.
Meanwhile, the current government has introduced several initiatives and programs for not just the current sports players but also the youth who wish to groom themselves in sports.