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AFRO-ASIAN GAMES: Clashing Dates (10/22/2002)
--K.Arumugam
Hockey was included in the Afro-Asian Games on 23rd May last year when the General Assembly of National Sports Committees met at Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. Despite having enormous time at its disposal, the Indian Hockey Federation was caught unawares dates of another prestigious competition Champions Trophy clash with it. As a result, the hockey competition lost much of its sheen as last year Olympics finalist South Korea and world No.four Pakistan will be conspicuous absentees. . Was the crisis avoidable? How far the IHF played its part to avert the crisis? Secretary General of the IHF, Jothi Kumaran covers whole gamut of issues with K. Arumugam.

Excerpts of the interview:

Originally, hockey was not included in the Afro-Asian Games. It was included subsequently. Was the IHF involved in the decision making?

No. It was the decision of the National Olympic Committee. It’s good they included hockey.

Did it mean the clash of dates of Afro-Asian Games and Champions Trophy could have been averted had there been better co-ordination between Indian Olympic Association and the IHF?

It’s not like that. They have fixed the dates considering the interest and the opinion of about 90 countries. In such a mammoth exercise, clash of some tournaments cannot be avoided.

How is our relationship with Pakistan Hockey Federation?

Very nice. In fact recently Netherlands invited Pak, Germany and India for a 4-nation tournament. The PHF wrote them back they will take part provided India comes there. They are always very particular we should play more and more. Today, whatever the situation, whichever is the competition, Indo-Pak contest evokes maximum interest. This is what we again observed at Dhaka Prime Minister Gold Cup. For the interest of hockey, we should play on regular basis. This they also know.

Then why can’t such a situation and shared sentiments be used to change the dates of Champions Trophy?

No. No. We should understand the situation. The fasting month of Ramzan starts in November. So, the question of postponement does not arise. In October they host South Asian Federation Games. Can we also expect anyone to play two major tournaments in a short span of time? First of all, it’s the decision of the FIH. Even if Pakistan agrees to change the dates, it should be an unanimous decision of all participating countries. One should be careful. Asian countries might agree to in the interest of Asian-African community. Will it be acceptable to all European countries?.

When such important tournament like World Cup where sixteen countries participate, can be postponed why not a 6-Nation Champions Trophy?

There was a genuine reason for the World Cup postponement. The organizers, Malaysian Hockey Federation, themselves put up the proposal very properly and at the same time the FIH also made all the participating countries to attend a meeting on 21st April at Brussels. But, in our case, the host Pakistan is not in a position to put forward such a proposal because of their own compulsions.

Have we sought the FIH’s help or mediation in this respect?

Certainly. Our president KPS Gill spoke to Mr.Alegandra, Secretary General of the Asian Hockey Federation, then to Mr.Peter Cohen, the new Secretary General of the FIH. I also wrote letter to the FIH. Asian Hockey Federation has accepted our request and sent their recommendation to the FIH. Still, the final decision was with the FIH.

Without these two countries, the hockey event loses much of its interest. Isn’t it?

To some extent, yes.

It seems sports minister Uma Bharti has taken absence of Korea and Pak very seriously?

Yes, initially. But we had a meetings subsequently and it was a quiet affair. She understands our position and efforts.

Has not she taken the absence of Mr. Gill in the first meeting very seriously?

That was due to some communication gap. As I told already, everything was smooth in the next meeting.

With Jayalalitha’s return, will the Chief Minister’s International Cup be revived in Chennai?

Two hundred percent sure.

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