November 7, 2001

slide shows
search rediff

 India Abroad
Weekly Newspaper

  In-depth news

  Community Focus

  16 Page Magazine
For 4 free issues
Click here!

Hockey Coverage
 Search the Internet
 Cricket, Hockey, Tennis,

E-Mail this report to a friend
Print this page Best Printed on  HP Laserjets

Shakeel Ahmed laments Arjuna award snub

Former India hockey captain Shakeel Ahmed still hopes to receive the prestigious Arjuna award, which has eluded him despite having rendered ''invaluable service'' to the national game.

In an exclusive interview with Rajnish Mishra, Ahmed said the recent controversy over the procedure in dishing out the awards have in no way lessened their importance.

''It is still the most prestigious national award in the field of sports,'' he said.

Admitting that he is dejected over not winning the award, even in the regular category, the soft-spoken midfielder said he is sure that one day the Almighty will listen to him and not let his name get lost in the dark pages of sports history.

Indeed, his optimism stems from a track record of over 240 international matches. He was a member of the Indian hockey team for almost 11 years (including three years as captain), and played every prestigious international tournament including the Olympics, World Cup, Champions Trophy and Asian Games.

Ahmed says there is much more to the Arjuna award than just the cash prize and all that comes with it.

''The Arjuna award does not merely mean a bronze statue, prize-money of rupees one-and-half lakh, free railway pass for life and an out-of-turn allotment of government flats.

''Winning this award, according to me, is such a great honour that the prize-money and other facilities provided alongwith it cease to have any meaning,'' he says.

Showing a copy of his application to Union Sports Minister Uma Bharti, for nomination to the lifetime achievement category during the last edition of the Arjuna awards, Ahmed said, ''I was hopeful that the Indian Hockey Federation would recommend my name, but when it did not happen, I sent this individual application to the Sports Ministry even after the expiry of the last date for nomination."

However, he added, even this effort turned futile.

"After putting in so many years of my life playing excellent hockey for my country, I'm still deprived of the award," he lamented.

Ahmed, who is a deputy manager with Indian Airlines, said: ''I am happy that players like Dhanraj Pillay, Ashish Balall, Mukesh Kumar, A B Subbaiah, Baljit Singh Saini and others who played under my captaincy have already received this award."

Saying he has no complaints about the selection process, as his name "was never placed before the selection committee", Ahmed informed that, a few days back, he met Sports Minister Uma Bharati and requested her to facilitate impartial consideration of his case.

''She, while talking about the dispute and foul-crying over the awards, asked me to send my nomination next time."

He said if the IHF does not recommend his name, he will try to get a recommendation from the Member of Parliament from his constituency or any other competent authority.

Ahmed last played for India in 1998 but still plays first-class hockey for Indian Airlines. He rates the final of the 1990 BMW Trophy in Holland and the 1991 Azlan Shah Cup the most memorable days of his sporting career. On both the occassions, India beat arch-rivals Pakistan to win the gold.

Expressing desire to play first-class hockey for at least another three to four years, Ahmed said: "Hockey is my life, it has given me name, fame and money; I can't even think of living without it. After retirement, I will train sub-junior and junior players."

For his possible nomination to the lifetime achievement category, he said this particular felicitation has nothing to do with age and the main requisite is merit.

''Moreover, now, I cannot make a claim for the regular category as I have stopped playing for the country. So it is only the life- time achievement category where I can stake a claim.

"I have worked hard for my country and I deserve it," Ahmed concluded, with a gleam of hope in his eyes.


Mail Sports Editor