Mumbai: Over 20 former India international players, including several Olympians, have appealed to Sports Minister Ajay Maken to intervene and sort out the dispute between Indian Hockey Federation and Hockey India for the smooth conduct of World Series Hockey starting December 17.
The former players, including V Bhaskaran, Dhanraj Pillai, Zafar Iqbal, M P Singh and Mervyn Fernandes, have slammed the International Hockey Federation, which has termed WSH as an 'unsanctioned' event, for creating obstacles in the smooth conduct of the League.
Twelve current Indian hockey players have withdrawn from the event after having signed up as they wanted to be in the national camp for the all-important pre-Olympic qualifiers that is clashing with the December 17-January 22, WSH.
"We are a group of ex Olympians who have represented our country with pride for many years. We have had the honour of representing our country in the sport of hockey in multiple Olympic Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and numerous other international tournaments. We have among us Padmashrees, Arjuna awardees and Olympic medallists," they have written to Maken.
"We are here before you as representatives of Indian Hockey which has unfortunately been thrown into turmoil by vested interests," they said.
Pointing out that the WSH has, for the first time, provided the sport with something to look forward to in terms of player fees and prize money, which would benefit the players, they said that the tournament would also help in improving hockey infrastructure in the country.
"Unfortunately, for reasons best known to them, the FIH has decided that everything must be done to make WSH not happen. They have, from over a year ago, been threatening players everywhere in the world that they will ban them from representing their country if they played in WSH," the Olympians wrote.
"Till date they have been unable to provide a satisfactory answer as to what they find wrong with this event to justify such actions on their part," they wrote.
They also accused HI of harassing Indian players, pressurising them to not take part in the USD 2 million event. The former players have claimed that the players who quit WSH had told them that they had been asked to sign letters (indicating their withdrawal) in their rooms "in the middle of the night".
"In the interests of the sport of Indian hockey we humbly request you to use your good offices to either ensure a truce between all factions or alternatively ensure that they each focus on their own development of the sport without trying to destroy one another and consequently destroy our national sport," they pleaded.
Others who have signed the letter include Baldev Singh, Ashish Ballal, Vineet Kumar, Romeo James, Sanjiv Kumar, Gundeep Kumar, Harendra Singh, Baljeet Singh Saini, Gurbux Singh Grewal, Balbir Singh Grewal, M K Kaushik, Rahul Singh and Arvind Chabra.