Can Pargat make it to the president's post?
The HinduS. Thyagarajan
Chennai: An Olympian and former captain has thrown his hat in the ring for the post of President. It signals a desire to streamlining governance. For Pargat Singh, the only hockey player with the distinction of leading the country in two successive Olympic Games, the contest against the 83-year-old Vidya Stokes is more than a crusade to regain the country's hockey profile.
Small wonder, the elections to Hockey India, scheduled on July 28, are in focus.
Pargat's credentials to don the mantle and give a new direction to hockey, languishing for two years for want of professional governance, cannot be disputed. Long after his playing days, the former defender, who was feared, respected and admired by the opposition, seeks the mandate from the ‘privileged' representatives of hockey's fraternity. Pargat has a vision, commitment and a well-crafted programme to revive, revitalise, probably, revolutionise, the administration in every layer.
Vidya Stokes stakes her claims — supported by a powerful IOA section that created an entity called Hockey India, trampling many a democratic norm — on the strength of her long association with women's hockey. More importantly, Ms. Stokes has held several political offices as minister, speaker and governor. But surprisingly, Ms. Stokes is unwilling to accept Sports Ministry's guidelines, one of which imposes the age restriction of 70. Ms. Stokes and her backers have chosen to defy this provision when raised by the Ministry's election observer. HI rejected Government funding. This is an act of desperation to stay in the fray.
A sport like hockey, or for that matter, any discipline besides cricket, cannot survive without Government's financial assistance. Sadly, this defiance is becoming a norm. How these units will raise the wherewithal to promote sport they want to serve in as office-bearers in anybody's guess. Suffice it to say, the players, in every segment, will be the victims. The decision to spurn government's financial assistance is probably based on the illusion that the ministry cannot, or will not leave players in the lurch for competitions and training fearing public backlash.
The question is whether Pargat Singh can overcome the odds, real and created, on Wednesday. From the time of the suspension of the IHF following the 2008 debacle in Chile, every move of the IOA was orchestrated to suit a specific matrix. The haste with which the FIH acknowledged the formation of Hockey India without applying its mind triggered a slew of court cases. The Delhi High Court judgement upholding the IHF appeal against its suspension was a setback for the IOA. Even within the FIH there is a school of thought that it needlessly slithered into the quagmire of India's hockey politics without a clue to coming out untarnished.
In the two-year rule, HI has had to wade through a maze of problems starting with players' protest over unsettled payments, the huge mess before the World Cup in several organisational aspects from ticketing to media relations, polemical exchanges with the Sports Ministry, the imbroglio over preparing the eligible list of voters leading to a plethora of court cases, and the recent embarrassment of accusations of sexual harassment against the women's coach, M.K. Kaushik. By no stretch of imagination is this an illuminating report-card for a unit that chooses to forego the Ministry's financial support to side-step the guidelines.
Meanwhile, the FIH, for all the humiliation it suffered during the World Cup — the media walked out leaving the President, Leandro Negre red-faced — has allotted the 2011 Champions Trophy to India. Who made this bid and on what authority is unclear. Does the FIH believe that everything will be smooth by then and the Indian administration will become a model of proficiency? It is optimism, terribly misplaced.