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India accused of fielding over-age hockey players

July 15, 2008 15:42 IST

The Indian hockey team at the Junior Asia Cup finds itself in the eye of a storm, with rival teams from Singapore and Malaysia accusing it of fielding at least six over-age players.

Coaches of the Singapore and Malaysian teams said they were stunned to see the so-far-unbeaten Indians fielding some "senior" players in the tournament.

The Indian team's officials, however, strongly denied the accusations.

Chiow Chuan Lim, coach of Singapore, and Muralidharan, coach of Malaysia, demanded that the Asian and International Hockey Federations evolve a scientific approach to eradicate the malpractice.

"It is not only India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, but even the Europeans have been fielding over-age players in FIH-recognised tournaments for a long, long time. We have been facing this problem even in junior World Cups," Lim fumed.

"The FIH and all the continental federations have to address this problem and put in place a scientific approach to eradicate this," he said.

An equally miffed Muralidharan said he would have pursued the matter more vigorously if he had some documentary proof.

"It has been happening for a couple of years. We cannot make a complaint but we have been requesting them to resolve this issue of teams fielding over-age players in FIH and AHC recognised tournaments. Our perception is that these players are over-aged but we do not have written proof to challenge this," he rued.

"For example, Sunil, playing here [in the Jr Asia Cup in Hyderabad], was registered for the Azlan Shah tournament in May this year as a 25-year-old. This is what my players are also saying. If he was 25 in May this year, how can he be 21 now?" Muralidharan asked.

"But there is nothing we can do. It is very disappointing ... we are not playing on a level field. I think, this is the best platform for the FIH and AHC officials to address this problem when they meet here this weekend."

Muralidharan and Lim said India has at least six over-age players in their ranks.

"There is a general feeling that a minimum of six players are overage. We never made any official complaint since we do not have any proof but our view is that we have been seeing some of the players for a long time at junior levels," Muralidharan alleged.

"Perhaps one or two of such players can be roped in for both junior and senior level but not nine or 10. If a player is playing at the senior level for three or four years, it is surmised that they would have been playing at the junior level from the age of 16. Based, on that, we feel that these players are over-age," he said.

Lim even went to the extent of saying that India fielding over-age players has been an old phenomenon.

"It has been the case for over two-three years in World Cups and other events. The present Indian team is almost the same that played in the Azlan Shah in Ipoh two months ago. This problem has been there even when I was playing the game on a competitive level," he said.

"I am ashamed and it is terrible. My team comprises 16 and 17-years-olds. How is it possible to play against players who are 10 years older? We need a level playing field," Lim said.

The Malaysian coach, meanwhile, also accused Pakistan and Bangladesh of fielding over-age players.

"May be Pakistan and Bangladesh have also fielded over-aged players in this tournament. We have to find a way to identify the age of a player by doing medical examinations like bone test or tooth test.

"We have to ensure that the teams are provided with same level of playing field," he said.

On why they have not taken up the complaint of over-age players with tournament officials, Muralidharan retorted that it would be a waste of time and money.

"It is because we do not have the proof right now with us. We might do it after getting back to our countries and check with our records from the junior tournaments that we had during early January this year and then the Azlan Shah event.

"But if we go to the Tournament director when we cannot provide proof, it is a waste of time and money," he said.

Meanwhile, a Government of India undertaking Academy official revealed on condition of anonymity that the Indians had to withdraw two of their stars, V Raghunath and Bharat Chikara, from the team in the ongoing tournament because they were over-age.

"They were picked for the Junior Asia Cup. We had a meeting and decided to advise them not to play since their date of birth record with our office and their respective passports did not tally. Age enumerated in the passport was much less," he said.

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