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Rajinder, Pillay in public row

September 29, 2003 17:28 IST
Last Updated: September 29, 2003 17:57 IST

Differences between India hockey coach Rajinder Singh and captain Dhanraj Pillay came out in the open on Monday, when the two got engaged in a heated verbal duel soon after the team landed in Chennai from Kuala Lumpur, where it won the Asia Cup after beating Pakistan 4-2 in the final on Sunday.

The celebrations at the airport were marred by confusion, while the press conference in a city hotel later witnessed the row between the two, as Pillay, who was surrounded by reporters and cameramen, was reprimanded by the coach for talking to the media.

Peeved at Rajinder Singh's attempt to stop him from giving interviews, Pillay shouted back at the coach, saying, "I am speaking on behalf of the team. I am not seeking any publicity for myself."

But the Indian Hockey Federation downplayed the incident and secretary-general K Jothikumaran, who received the players at the airport, termed the incident as "a minor one".

Rajinder Singh arrived first from the airport to the hotel, where team sponsor Sahara India had arranged the press conference. Pillay and other players then walked into the conference hall and soon the team was swamped by reporters, photograhers and videographers.

Pillay did not utter a word to the media even as Rajinder Singh called the players to the lobby, where he was sitting. It took a brief while for Pillay to move in with the other players.

Finally, when Pillay joined others, Rajinder was saying something to the players which irked the Indian captain.

"I am also a player. I am the captain, tell me."

Later, an upset Pillay, with tears rolling down his cheeks, narrated the incident to Jothikumaran. Cameras picked up the drama before Jothikumaran asked the players and the coach to go to their rooms.

He also requested the waiting media personnel to be seated in the conference hall and informed that the media briefing would begin shortly.

Jothikumaran said the question and answer session, will follow a felicitation ceremony.

At the press conference, Jothikumaran tried to play down the incident.

"When the coach is advising or instructing the players, he has every right to do so. Players are taking it sportingly," he said, referring to the recent ban which refrains the players from talking to the media.

An emotional Pillay told reporters that he never did anything to get publicity.

"I have played hockey for the country for 15 years. From the bottom of my heart, I am telling today in front of this large media gathering that all my players should get the same recognition that I get from the media.

"Sometimes, I also feel bad. I never ever called any media person and sought publicity. I will never do it in future also. I want Indian hockey to go up," he said.

"I request you all to give recognition to all players. The coach is telling there was disturbance in the camp earlier and we were a bit restricted. One should take such things in a sporting way," Pillay said, seeking to put an end to the controversy.

Rajinder, who was asked whether there was any code of conduct for himself and players, said, "We require the media support for development of hockey in the country.

"Last time we had a bitter experience because so many players in the camp were not concentrating on the game during the Champions Trophy.

"Many players were going in for phone-in interviews and some were also writing articles in newspapers. Such things definitely disturb the team's rhythm. I was only trying to explain this to the players today," he said.

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