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When the glitter's gone

January 27, 2003 20:20 IST

Poverty-stricken Moscow Olympics hockey gold medallist Sylvanus Dung Dung is fighting hard against putting the medals he earned from the game under the hammer to make ends meet.

"Occasional bouts of depression due to poverty may one day force me to auction my heart and soul [the Olympic hockey gold and other medals]," Dung Dung, one of the architects of India's 4-3 victory over Spain in 1980 Olympic final, told PTI in Ranchi.

"I just get Rs 500 as pension and have seven mouths to feed... Life is becoming unbearable with each sunrise," moaned the Olympian.

"My only request to the Jharkhand government and the Indian Hockey Federation is to utilise my experience. This would benefit the youngsters and give me a new lease of life as well," said Dung Dung, who was also the member of the 1978 silver medal-winning Indian team at the Bangkok Asiad.

For his sterling performance in the Moscow Olympics, the Jaganath Mishra government in Bihar provided him a house, but, unfortunately, he is running from pillar to post to get it registered in his name.

"The house is in a dilapidated condition. I cannot even spend money for white-washing, leave aside the repair work. As if this is not enough, the Jharkhand authorities have also compounded my misery by demanding unwanted documents," informed Dung Dung.

The veteran right-back successfully coached the Central Command team, from Lucknow, to four consecutive victories in the Army hockey championship and also helped Northern Command, Udhampur, register its first ever triumph in 1986.

Asserting that no NIS coach can match his skills, he said: "My applications for coaching are being turned down as I am not a product of the NIS. The authorities do not understand the difference between an Olympian and a common coach."

He urged the state administration to give him a chance. "I will see that four/five persons from Jharkhand play for the nation."

However, the former master craftsman begged: "For the time being I shall be happy to coach even a school team as it will supplement my meagre income."

A father of three sons and a daughter, tears clouded his eyes as he choked to explain the hardship he faced recently to get his niece married. His nephew is also his dependant.

And that's not all. Dung Dung has more pain in his heart. That of not being conferred the Arjuna award.

"Many less talented players have been conferred the award. No doubt Michael Kindo is a wonderful player. But he never played the Asian Games. I had played all the three majors -- the World Cup, Olympics and Asian Games but no one bothered to recommend my name."

The 56-year-old added: "One day the authorities will understand my contribution to the nation and will recognise me. The Jharkhand government is now led by an Adivasi and I hope he will come to my rescue."

Dung Dung, who joined the army on January 27, 1965, played the 1978 World Cup, Quadrangular International Cup in Kuala Lumpur in 1980 and 12 Tests against Pakistan and Holland. He represented Bihar and Services in the Rangaswami Cup, the National championship, between 1977 and 1981 before retiring in 1988.

He hails from Simdega district which has produced a large number of national and international (both men and
women) players. Former internationals Michael Kindo, Justine Kerketa, Noel Topno and James Kerketa are Dung Dung's contemporaries while Bimal Lakra is a member of the present senior India squad.

Three women players -- Sumarai Tete, Kanti Ba, Marisa Surin -- who were part of the Commonwealth Games women's hockey gold medal-winning team -- belong to the same district.

P V Ramanujam
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