Olympic Qualifiers to be held in India: FIH

New Delhi: Ending the suspense over India`s future in international hockey, the game`s world governing body FIH Saturday decided to conduct the Olympic Qualifiers in India next year and continue to recognise Hockey India as the National Federation for the sport.

In a major decision, the FIH`s Executive Board in Lausanne unanimously decided to conduct the Olympic Qualifiers and other major hockey tournaments in India, a move which is bound to come as a relief for hockey lovers in the country. It has also decided to recognize Hockey India (HI) as the National Federation of the Sport.

The decision to this effect was conveyed to Sports Minister Ajay Maken by the FIH, President Leandro Negre on phone from Lausanne, Switzerland. The Olympic qualifiers are scheduled to be held from February 15 next year.

Maken expressed satisfaction at the decision to conduct the qualifiers in the country and termed it as a "suitable and logical conclusion" to the efforts that were made by the Ministry, Hockey India and the FIH.

With time running out for India to save the hosting rights of next year`s Olympic qualifiers, FIH had summoned Hockey India to present its case before the world body`s executive council Saturday.

The FIH had asked HI to appear before its executive board next month to discuss issues related to the game`s governance in the country.

India had already paid the price for the long-standing power tussle between HI and Indian Hockey Federation over the governance of the game, with the FIH snatching away the hosting rights of this year`s Champions Trophy.

The FIH had also warned that India could be banned from international hockey if the issue of governance was not sorted out.

HI was represented in the Lausanne meeting by its secretary general Narinder Batra and vice-president Rajeev Mehta. The FIH had made it clear that it was not in favour of two bodies — HI and IHF — running the sport in India as such as it was against its statues and Olympic charter.

After the FIH rejected the sports Ministry`s compromise formula of a joint panel to govern the game, The Indian Olympic Association stepped into the picture to work out a solution. The IOA had a series of meetings with the officials of HI and IHF but could not break the impasse. On its part, the FIH said that it recognises HI as the sole governing body for hockey in India.

The FIH`s decision could also have a bearing on the upcoming World Series Hockey, a high-profile league organised by the IHF and Nimbus Sports, as most of the top Indian players have signed up for the event. Pressure is bound to be put on the national players to opt out of the `unofficial` tournament and prepare for India`s Olympic qualifiers now that the tournament has been allotted to India.

Meanwhile, Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra thanked Sports Minister Ajay Maken for his timely intervention.

"I would like to thank the Sports Ministry and FIH for deciding to conduct the Olympic Qualifiers and other major hockey tournaments in India. FIH president Leandro Negre spoke to Sports Minister Ajay Maken over phone during the course of the meeting for nearly one and a half hours. After his talks with the Minister, Negre decided to hold Olympic qualifiers in India. I am happy with the outcome of the meeting," Batra said from Lausanne.