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Can a government department and a team sponsor be so impartial to hockey? (9/26/2007)
--K. Arumugam
In the recent times, Indian sports persons have won three titles. It all started with Indian footballers defeating Syria in the revived Nehru International Cup. Then came Joaquim Carvalho’s daredevils who easily won the Asia Cup title in style, a rare feat for Indian hockey where they successfully defended any title after 1952 Olympics. A couple of days ago, cricket team won the inaugural Twenty20 Cricket World Cup in Johannesburg, Sought Africa. All these victories, coming as it were after decades, especially for football and cricket, gave enormous satisfaction.

Air India, the national carrier, yesterday announced its six players in the cricket team would be given promotion. Air India, which now incorporates Indian Airlines too after merger, also inserted full page ads in all leading newspapers. Congratulations Team Air India. ‘Welcome Home. Super Six Maharajas of the Air India Family. Saluting the indomitable spirit of new India and the dynamism of the all new Air India’. Thus goes the content of the advertisement. The nation joins with them in celebrating the grand occasion.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who led India to an unexpected Twenty20 World Cup title, bowlers Harbhajan Singh, RP Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan. RP Singh, Robin Uthappa (he is son of hockey umpire Venu Utthapa) are the Super Six Maharajahs (the mascot of the Air India).

Now come the moot point.

Asia Cup hockey success came first after the two airlines merged. The Chennai blossom therefore is more significant; had enormous market publicity potential to tap in for the Air India management. More so because, the captain Prabodh Tirkey is from their ranks. And the senior most of the Asia Cup team, Dilip Tirkey and centre-half Bimal Lakra are also from the same organization. Why not Air India did not take note of these stars and the Chennai success and tried to project them in the market as it is doing for the cricket. We are not cricket baiters, we too love the game, but are pained to see a public sector organization, which means it is government money, takes such a one-sided view of sporting success.

If private companies makes a overdrive it is their money they can do anything. But a government department indulging in a open policy of impartiality is unacceptable. The IHF should take matter seriously and lodge a complain with the Air India.

Adding salt to the injury, Sahara, the official team sponsors of both Cricket and Hockey, chose to award about 4 million dollars worth gift (a flat to each member) for the cricket team, while the hockey success never touched their chord. Why? last time in 2003 at least they organized a party.

India as a sporting nation has to ponder over these things seriously if it wants Olympic sports such as hockey is to be encouraged.

Hockey players too sweat as much as the cricketers do, even the field for hockey was as large as 11 nations. Like the cricketers, Tirkey's boys also defeated a formidable team (korea) twice as was the case with cricket (Pakistan twice).

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