World Series Hockey organisers on Thursday dangled an attractive cash carrot of Rs two crore in front of the players of the Indian squad who have signed up with them if they pilot the country to the gold in the London Olympics by breaking a 32-year-old medal jinx.
Joint league organisers Nimbus Sport and the Indian Hockey Federation have also offered Rs 5 lakh to each WSH-signee who helps India book a berth in the 2012 Olympics through the qualifiers, to be held in Delhi from February 18.
The USD 2 million franchise-based WSH, scheduled between February 29-April 2, is not a sanctioned event of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), which has repeatedly shown its opposition to the League.
"The legacy of Indian hockey at the Olympics is unmatched with the national team winning 11 medals, including 8 gold medals. WSH is committed to promote hockey and hence has launched an incentive campaign - Strive For Gold - to motivate the Indian team to play their best," said Nimbus Sport's COO Yannick Colaco.
"Our current Indian team has tremendous potential and WSH wishes them the very best for their Olympic campaign," he added.
The incentives announced by WSH are: Rs 5 lakh to every WSH player in the Indian team if it qualifies for the Olympics; Rs 50 lakh (divided equally amongst all WSH players in the team) if Indian team wins bronze medal at London which would go up to Rs 1 crore if the team wins silver and Rs 2 crore if it regains the gold last won at the Moscow Games in 1980.
Former internationals Dhanraj Pillay, Gagan Ajit Singh, Viren Rasquinha - who are all set to play in WSH - and 1980 gold medal-winning team captain Vasudevan Baskaran welcomed the 'Strive for Gold' campaign.
"Every Indian has a junoon (passion) for hockey, especially for the Olympics. Our current Indian team is a dark horse for the Games. I join millions of Indian hockey fans in wishing the team best of luck for the Qualifiers," four-time Olympian and former captain Pillay said.
Another ex-India captain and gold medalist at the Asia Cup, Rasquinha said, "Today, the Indian public is more aware than before about performing in different sports at the highest level. Indian hockey has always struck an emotional chord with hockey fans all over the world. This time, we hope to regain our pride at the London Games. I wish all my former team-mates best of luck for the Qualifiers."
Gagan Ajit, who led India to their maiden Junior World Cup title in 2001, said, "Hockey is one sport where we are recognised at the Olympics. This time, the men's team is capable of reaching the pinnacle. As Indians we need to come together and support the national hockey team for the Qualifiers."
Baskaran, who led India to their last Olympic hockey medal more than three decades ago, said he was confident India would win the Qualifiers and aim for a podium finish in London.
"This Indian team has the potential to win a medal at the Games. The world still fears India as a top contender in hockey. We need to strike a rhythm at the outset from the Qualifiers itself," said Baskaran.
Former India coach Harendra Singh said, "The current players in the Indian team are amongst the best talent in the world today. I am confident they will restore our glorious position in the sport."