The Indian hockey team on Tuesday rejected Hockey India's cash reward for winning the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy, saying the paltry amount of Rs. 25,000 each was not proper recognition of their achievement.
During a felicitation ceremony at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Tuesday evening, the players were offered the reward but they outrightly rejected it.
"We were offered Rs 25,000 each by HI Secretary General Narinder Batra as reward for winning the Asian Champions Trophy but we all refused to take it because it is a very small reward considering our achievement," senior player Gurbaz Singh told PTI.
Gurbaz said it was not possible to draw youngsters to the game with such rewards.
"We did not expect such a small amount as reward, considering the fact that hockey is our national game. If such things continue, there will be a day when there will be very few kids interested in playing hockey. They would rather opt for cricket or any other individual sport," he added.
Another member of the victorious team said that such a meagre reward did not come as a surprise to him.
"These things are not new in Indian hockey. Now we are used to such step-motherly behaviour. This doesn't make any difference," the player said on condition of anonymity.
India won the Asian Champions Trophy by defeating arch-rivals Pakistan 4-2 via shoot out in the summit clash.
Criticising Hockey India for the unacceptable gesture, skipper of the victorious Indian team, Rajpal Singh said if the federation does not reward players properly then how would they expect youngsters to take up the sport in future.
"If there are no incentives how can we expect the younger generation to take (up) the sport," said Rajpal.
"Despite problems if we are giving our 100 per cent, then the federation needs to think of suitably rewarding players.
"We did not ask for any rewards, we play for our country and will keep on doing so," the captain added.
Arjun Hallapa, who was ruled out of the Asian Champions Trophy due to an injury, expressed surprise at HI's gesture, saying that players need to be rewarded very well.
"It is very surprising. After winning such a big event players should be rewarded very well," Hallapa said.
Former India hockey captain Viren Rasquinha, meanwhile, said the amount won't even buy a player three pairs of shoes.
"All this is unexpected, Rs 25,000 can not even buy three pairs of shoes for a player. You have to give them rewards on par with the level of achievement," Rasquinha said.
"This was a very, very important tournament victory for India coming on the back of so much controversy in the lead up to the tournament.
"They did really well to beat some of the top teams and they deserve much more. We have to give incentives to the team and motivate them ahead of more important tournaments in future like the Olympic qualifiers that are coming up, which is a key tournament for us to qualify for Olympics," he added.
Hockey Olympian Ajitpal Singh attributed the humiliation to the infighting within the federation and said their actions have brought misery to the sport.
"The amount is too little. Players are justified, they have every right to refuse the sum. If players are not looked after properly they will get disheartened," Ajitpal said.
"Infighting within the federation has caused a lot of misery to the sport," he added.
Former coach Harendra Singh said Hockey India should take a leaf out of the BCCI's book and see how well they treat their players.
He added that their gesture has become a "laughable stock" for the world.