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Hockey defeat matter of shame: Aiyar

March 10, 2008 19:08 IST

Union sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar lashed out at the Indian Hockey Federation on Monday, saying "it is a matter of shame that a team which has been part of the Olympics for the past 80 years and won several gold and silver medals failed to qualify for the Beijing Games".

Eight-time champions India lost 0-2 to Great Britain on Sunday night in the final of the second Olympic qualifier in Santiago, Chile, and failed to make it to the quadrennial event for the first time in 80 years.

Talking to newsmen in Delhi, Aiyar said, "Such things shouldn't have happened. But I cannot do anything about it since the IHF is an autonomous body and KPS Gill and Jothikumaran, as its president and secretary, should answer for the debacle."

Though Aiyar was meeting with newspersons to explain his ministry's good work on the Panchayati Raj system, most questions thrown at him were related to the Indian hockey team's failure to qualify for the Olympics.

Former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, now at the helm of affairs at the All India Tennis Association, also expressed shock, saying he was disappointed to learn about the team's failure to qualify for the Games.

Manohar Joshi, former chief minister of Maharashtra, too expressed dismay but refused to blame either Gill or any other individual for the poor performance.

India were forced to play in one of the three qualifying rounds after failing to finish among the medals at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, where it finished fifth.

After winning six consecutive Olympic gold medals from Amsterdam in 1928, Indian hockey has witnessed a decline and the last of its eight golds came in 1980 at the Moscow Games, which was marred by notable boycotts.

Their last significant triumph came at the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok. Fresh hopes were raised when the team beat Korea 7-2 in the final and retained the Asia Cup in Chennai last September.

China (as hosts), the Netherlands, South Korea, Canada, South Africa, Spain, Belgium, Pakistan and Australia qualified directly for the Beijing Games, while New Zealand made the grade after winning the first qualifying tournament in Auckland.

The third qualifier is in Japan next month and World champions Germany, which missed out at direct qualification after finishing fourth in the European Championships last year, are favourites to secure a back door entry.

Onkar Singh in Delhi