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Hockey India-IHF row hogs limelight in 2011

Last updated on: December 29, 2011 05:25 IST

2011: Hockey India-Indian Hockey Federation tussle take centre-stage

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Another year passed, but the sorry state of Indian hockey refuses to change. The prolonged struggle for power between two warring federations again took centre stage over the performance of the national team in 2011.

Just like never-ending television soap operas, there seemed no immediate solution to the tussle between Hockey India and the de-recognised Indian Hockey Federation, who after calling a temporary peace, went back to fighting ways, leaving the national game in utter shambles.

Thanks to the tug-of-war between Hockey India and the IHF Federation, the team had hardly anything to showcase in terms of performance apart from a few successes here and there in the year gone by.


Image: Rajpal Singh
Photographs: Getty Images

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Coach Nobbs gets going with Asian Champions Trophy

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With time running out for the London Olympics qualifiers and the national team showing hardly any signs of improvement, the administrators of the game roped in a new coach, Michael Nobbs from Australia, for a period of five years.

Soon after taking charge, Nobbs laid down a proper roadmap for next year's Olympic Qualifiers and it appeared that things slowly started to change for the better, as the Australian tasted success in his maiden assignment -- the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) in Ordos, China.

Nobbs decided to go in with a relatively young side in the ACT and his decision proved good as India returned victorious from China.

They defeated Asian powerhouse South Korea 5-3 en route to the final, where they defeated arch-rivals Pakistan in a high-voltage match.


Image: Yuvraj Walmiki gets heros' welcome after the ACT


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'Gloom' year for Indian hockey

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However, eight-time Olympic champions India lacked consistency throughout the year, finishing a lowly sixth in the seven-team Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in May.

Even though India managed to reap rich dividends in the ACT, they were exposed ruthlessly by the mighty Australians in the tour Down Under.

India, however, displayed some character by bouncing back in the Champions Challenge I tournament in South Africa, where they pumped in 29 goals.

But the tournament eventually ended in disappointment for as they lost to Belgium in the summit clash, which cost them their place in next year's Champions Trophy.

That was just about the Indian hockey team managed to give it to its fans in 2011 as controversies and power struggle ruled the headlines in what can be termed as a 'gloom' year for Indian hockey.


Image: Sandeep Singh (left)
Photographs: Getty Images

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India lose the chance to host Champions Trophy

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Things appeared to be going out of control from the onset of the year and the Sports Ministry was forced to intervene, giving both Hockey India and Indian Hockey Federation a strict deadline to kiss and make up, or face action.

After endless meetings at the behest of the ministry, both the federations agreed to sign peace, which was only to be derailed by an opportunist International Hockey Federation (FIH), which dismissed the working agreement between Hockey India and the Indian Hockey Federation.

Stating that it was against the International Olympic Committee charter, the FIH rejected the formula and snatched away the hosting rights of this year's Champions Trophy from India and also threatened to move next year's Olympic Qualifiers from India.


Image: Sardar Singh
Photographs: Getty Images

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World Series Hockey brews trouble again

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Then, the lucrative World Series Hockey came. It promised to change the face of Indian hockey with huge money on offer for the poor domestic players, but that too hit a roadblock in the form of Hockey India.

The eight-team franchise-based tournament, promoted jointly by the Indian Hockey Federation and Nimbus Sport, resulted in fresh confrontation between Hockey India and the IHF.

The tournament, to be conducted on the lines of IPL, was originally scheduled to be held across different cities of the country from December 17 to January 22, but the organizers were later forced to postpone the event as it clashed with the national camp for the Olympic qualifiers.

Since its launch, the WSH faced stiff opposition from Hockey India and the FIH, with the world body warning all the players to stay away from the unsanctioned league or face sanctions from international competitions.


Photographs: Sanjay Sawant

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All eyes on Olympic qualifier

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The FIH and Hockey India's opposition forced India's top 12 players, including skipper Bharat Chettri, Tushar Khandekar, Yuvraj Walmiki, PR Sreejesh, Sandeep Singh and Sardar Singh, to withdraw from the high-profile league.

But controversies and power struggle apart, the national team appears to be slowly finding its foot with many junior players coming up the ranks but the road to redemption is still far away for the erstwhile hockey giants.

All said and done, the Indian team has got a golden opportunity to erase the bitter memories of Beijing as they have been handed out an easy draw in the Olympic Qualifier, scheduled to be held in Delhi from February 18-26 next year.

While there is some confidence growing on that front, the signs of the two warring federations signing peace for the betterment of Indian hockey still looks a far-fetched dream.


Photographs: Sanjay Sawant

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