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2008 OQ: Chile Qualifier
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It happens only in Indian Hockey (4/3/2008)
--N. Joy
Even after three weeks of the most shameful day when Indian hockey touched the nadir by failing to qualify for the Olympics for the first ever time, the top bosses of the Indian Hockey Federation are yet to utter a word on what they would do next to revive the fortunes of the national game.

IHF President KPS Gill is known for treating mediamen as lesser mortals and he did it again and again this time around when the presspersons were chasing him to give vent to the emotions of angry fans and former Olympians -- infamously dubbed as 'professional mourners' by the former supercop.

"This is not the time nor the place for a press conference. I will call you at the right time," Gill snubbed the mediapersons, who had gathered outside the Sports Ministry building to know what emerged in the meeting between the IHF chief, ministry and Sports Authority of India officials on March 17.

The next day Gill held a series of meetings with the former greats of the game besides Technical Advisor Ric Charlesworth and International Hockey Federation representative Bob Davidzon. In the morning, the IHF supremo sent the information to assembled newsmen that he would address a press conference at 3 pm. But in the evening, it is reliably learnt that on persuasion from Davidzon, Gill, who spoke to each and every television channel and a national news agency to prove his point of sticking to the federation post in the aftermath of India's Chile debacle, sent a word through his confidant and chief of protocol of IHF, Suresh Sharma, that it would be held two days later -- March 20.

Gill's brainstorming sessions continued for the next two days, first with the office-bearers of the IHF and then again with the Sports Ministry officials and Charlesworth before news broke that the adamant IHF had relented to give a role to the Australian coach with the senior men's team.

And it also came out that now the IHF will not organise a press conference, but instead will issue a press release.

But the IHF officials, who even had promised Davidzon to issue a statement to the media, have not been able to keep their word so far. And going by their past behaviour towards media, it would not be surprising if it is known that they are doing it deliberately.

Till date, the IHF website shamelessly features the report of India's fateful defeat to England in the Olympic qualifiers final in Santiago in its 'Press Releases' section. With this, it also reflects the attitude of the federation's top brass, who do not feel that they are answerable to the people of India and perhaps nurture the wrong conviction that IHF is made to be ruled by them only.

"By doing this IHF is not only ignoring the mediamen, but also insulting them. Besides, Gill instructed everybody with whom he met not to speak to media. How can you do that in a democratic country!" said K. Arumugam, noted hockey writer and Editor of stick2hockey.com portal.

"Indian players are always debarred from speaking to media. Now these people who met Gill do not speak. How can we move forward?"

Arumugam feared that the federation's hostile attitude towards press would also affect the FIH-backed 'Promoting Indian Hockey.'

"Communicaiton with the media is an important aspect of Promoting Indian Hockey. With this attitude the project cannot move forward. The IHF is not updating its website and for the last three months they are not giving the probables and team lists," he said.

A former player, who does not want to be quoted, said the IHF had to keep pace with time and be media-friendly.

"Shying away from press will not help them. They should make clear what is their plan for the future after the team failed to qualify for the Olympics," he said.

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