BACKS IOA EFFORTS AT REJUVINATION OF THE SPORT
Chandigarh May 8 – Indian Hockey found a new hope today with the mercurial SAD president and MP, Sukhbir Singh Badal declarng “ his own, his party’s and the Punjab government’s unstinted support to the new administrative dispensation for the rejuvenation of the sport. Mr. Badal declared that hockey was ‘my personal agenda’ and said that he had already successfully persuaded the Punjab government to “ sponsor the preparation of the Indian hockey teams for all international outings for the next four years.” The last time the Punjab government had sponsored the preparation of the Indian hockey team was in 1974 when India went on to win the third World Cup at Kuala Lumpur, beating Australia, Holland, West Germany and Pakistan on the way. That team, led by the legendary centre-half Ajit Pal Singh, had been trained at National Institute of Sports, Patiala, under the aegis of the Punjab government.
Meanwhile, Mr Harcharna Bains, Media Advisor to the Punjab Chief Minister Mr. Parkash Singh Badal confirmed that the Punjab government was willing to sponsor the preparation of Indian hockey teams for International events. Mr. Bains said that the Chief Minister had been ‘deeply pained’ at the manner in which the sport had suffered a decline in recent years and was willing to “contribute in every possible manner to help the revival of the country’s premier sporting discipline.”
In a statement here, Mr. Sukhbir Singh Badal extended his “full support to the IOA-backed organizational restructuring of the ‘affaire de la hockey’ and said that he had already secured a commitment from the SAD-BJP government in Punjab to the sponsor not only the preparation of the Indian hockey teams for the international events but also all efforts towards the rejuvenation of the sport at the grass-root level throughout the country. Mr. Badal said that he was in touch with the India Olympic Association on “charting the way forward for the Indian Hockey”.
The youthful MP from Faridkot said that the people at large and the hockey lovers in particular had been shocked by the “shameful manner in which the country had suffered hockey humiliation at the international level, failing for the first time event ot qualify for the Olympics. He said that the painful decision to dissolve the Indian Hockey Federation led by former Punjab Director General of Police, Mr. K.P.S. Gill was perhaps the last option left with the country and despite his political differences with the present government at the centre, he would lend all support to the IOA-backed committee for running the affairs of the hockey.
Mr. Badal said that hockey could not be managed by keeping the hockey stars at the bay. “We intend to involve hockey players, including present and past stars, in finding the way forward for reviving hockey as the national sport. I really do not believe that politicians, bureaucrats or businessmen understand hockey better than the hockey players themselves. Players have to be the centerpiece in any planning for running the sport. Politicians or bureaucrats can at best be facilitators. In that capacity, I wholeheartedly offer my services to the players and lovers of the game,” said the SAD president.
It may be recalled that Mr. Badal already secured the consent of the Punjab government for setting up hockey astro-turfs at key hockey centers including one at the Mecca of Hockey, Sansarpur (Jalandhar). He is also pushing for an international level football academy at the country’s soccer nursery, Mahilpur in Hoshiarpur district.