Sports Ministry rubbishes HI claim

New Delhi: The Sports Ministry today strongly refuted Hockey India`s claim that it had refused permission for the national camp in Bangalore, saying it was the HI which had changed the dates of the camp in order to scuttle the World Series Hockey.

Hockey India sources yesterday said that the Sports Ministry was yet to approve the training camp, which was scheduled to start at the SAI centre in Bangalore from today.

Rebutting the charge, a Sports Ministry source said that as per the decision in the Steering Committee Meetings on February 6 and 10, it was decided that the first phase of the national camp, leading up to London Olympics, will be held from March 13 to April 27.

A representative of HI was also present in the Steering Committee meeting. But on February 27, the day after India qualified for the London Olympics, HI Secretary Narinder Batra wrote a letter to Sport Ministry, saying that the national camp, which will have 48 players in it, be started from March 5.

According to Batra`s letter, the 18 players who have qualified for the Olympics "will be on active rest" from February 28 to March 14. They will join the camp on March 15 while the rest of the 30 players, many of whom playing in the World Series Hockey, will join from the beginning on March 5.

"The previous plan was to have the camp in Bangalore from March 13 but Hockey India changed it with malafide intentions so that those Indian players who were with WSH do not join it," a Sports Ministry source said.

"After everything was finalised, it was Batra who wrote a letter to us just a day after India qualified for the Olympics that the national camp be allowed to begin from March 5 with the fringe players taking part in it," the source said.

"The 18 players who were part of the team which beat France in the final of the Olympic qualifiers were to join on March 15 and the camp was to start with the remaining 30 fringe players," the source added.

The Ministry source said HI`s intention by expanding the list of probables and preponing the camp was aimed at scuttling the WSH.

HI sources yesterday said that the Madhya Pradesh government has stepped in, saying they would bear the entire cost of the camp if the federation wants to host the training camp there.

There has been a never-ending tug-or-war between HI and Indian Hockey which has not done anything good for the game in the country.

The IHF-backed WSH has been the bone of contention between the warring HI and IHF and the stand-off has resulted in most of the national players skipping the tournament, fearing a ban from International Hockey Federation (FIH), which recognises HI.

The ministry has been supporting the WSH, which was postponed in December for the Olympic qualifiers, but its inaction regarding the approval of the camp has left players confused and also affected their Olympics preparation.