M A I N   N E W S

Hockey truce fails to last

New Delhi, January 10
The truce hastily thrashed out last night by the Hockey India officials didn't last even a full day with the disgruntled players today deciding to go on strike again from tomorrow demanding dues and incentives.

“We are not going back to the camp anymore unless our demands are met,” Indian captain Rajpal Singh told PTI from Pune. Hockey India reacted sharply to players' decision with treasurer Narinder Batra accusing them of blackmailing the Federation and holding the nation to ransom.

“It’s really shocking. They agreed to our offer yesterday and now they are back on strike. They can't hold a nation to ransom,” he said. Asked why they decided to go on strike again after six players, including the Indian captain himself, met the HI officials last night and agreed to rejoin the camp, Rajpal said other players felt the amount offered by HI was peanuts. “It was a marathon meeting that went on and on. At one time, we wanted to end it somehow and return. We returned and conveyed to our team members what HI offered us. But they felt it was too insignificant an amount and there was no question of ending the strike,” Rajpal said, adding HI had offered Rs 25,000 for each player.

“We have conveyed our decision to the coaching staff and by now, they must have relayed it to HI. HI has to come up with a better offer if they want us back in the camp,” he said.

Meanwhile, Narinder Batra said HI officials will travel to Pune tomorrow to sort out the issue. “I cannot tell you who but HI officials would reach Pune tomorrow to talk to the players. We have as many as six meetings lined up in Delhi tomorrow, including meetings with International Hockey Federation (FIH) vice president Antonio von Ondarza and the Sports Ministry but somebody will go to Pune tomorrow,” Batra said.

Rajpal, meanwhile, assured that the players would keep themselves mentally and physically fit for the World Cup which begins next month in the capital. “We ask people not to worry about our fitness - physical or mental. We would rejoin the camp as soon as our demands are met,” Rajpal said.

Senior forward Prabhjot Singh also felt the money offered by HI was too meagre. “We put our proposals in front of Hockey India and they responded with their proposals. We discussed it among ourselves and we think what they have offered us is very little. So we have decided to boycott the camp again and until our demands are met, we would not practise,” said the striker.

“We are merely asking for our incentives for the tournaments we have won in 2009. I think it is our right. We should be paid what we demand. We have won and we deserve incentives. The team is united on this matter and we are prepared for the World Cup too,” Prabhjot said.

Batra on the other hand accused the players of blackmailing. “Yesterday, we had such a long meeting with them where everything was discussed and a solution was reached. Now they come out saying they are going on strike again. This is blackmailing us. They are playing for a country and not a club. They cannot hold an entire nation to a ransom like this,” he fumed.

Batra claimed HI listened to every grievances of the players and offered a solution too. “They talked about insurance cover, graded systems and even the alleged poor quality of food they had at the Pune camp. We told them what we can immediately do. We even agreed to compensate for the poor food, arrange a meeting with the sponsor as they demanded and HI president (AK Mattoo) went to the extent of promising them Rs 1 crore each if they win the World Cup. We said we would get the money anyhow for them. — PTI



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