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Total Recap of Chandigarh Hockey Fiasco (2/21/2010)
--Moulin Parikh
With just a week to go for the hockey World Cup, one would expect the intensity to rise but as has been the norm, Indian hockey finds itself embroiled in yet another controversy. This tine around it was the turn of the three senior most players in the current squad - captain Rajpal Singh, Prabhjot Singh and Deepak Thakur - who almost brought a bad name to the sport they profess.

Waking up to allegations
The Indian team had two off days and was to take part in a promotional match against Bollywood and TV stars on Saturday in Chandigarh. The AMR group, the organizers of the event unexpectedly announced in the wee hours that the Indian players – Prabhjot Singh, Rajpal Singh and Deepak Thakur demanded Rs. 50 million to take part in the game and refused to participate as their monetary demand was not met. The trio right in the dead night refused the allegations and made counter allegations about lack of coordination and professionalism by the organizers. It was evident early on Saturday morning that the proposed match involving Indian players will not take place.

The trio flew to Chandigarh with the remaining players deciding to stay back in Delhi on advice of the senior players. Upon arriving at the Chandigarh airport, the players admitted that an SMS was sent to the organizers on Friday night informing them about the non participation. The players said that they were appalled by the lack of professionalism shown by the AMR group and decided to skip the event and the organizers cooked up the story to show them in poor light.

Mud slinging
The rest of the noon was spent in marathon meetings and more mud slinging by both the parties. Apparently the bone of contention seemed to be money and a plane ticket involving a player who was not part of the squad. The organizers sent out 21 tickets, whereas the squad comprised of 22 players who were part of the camp. Later on, the 22nd player was picked up by the organizers but the player in question was not part camp and the rest objected to it. This development was later confirmed to us by Prabhjot Singh.

Soon the event started taking a serious turn and Indian captain made it clear that the players would boycott the match. “We have come here (Chandigarh) to promote hockey and not to strike a business deal.” He insisted that the players did not demand money. “We never asked for money and the allegations are shocking. Our image has been tarnished and we cannot play under such circumstances.”

Meanwhile, Suniel Shetty, brand ambassador of Indian hockey was bombarded with questions by the electronic media. The TV star tried his best to put up a brave face and said he had come to boost the morale of the team but also advised that focus at this juncture should be on the World Cup.

Another round of meeting followed and this time the senior players decided to keep quiet and waited for the organizer’s reaction which indicated that things had taken a nasty turn. The organizers were avoiding the media and sharp questions and even deployed security guards. After a lot of probing, finally the spokesperson for AMR, Anshul Nagar confirmed that the agenda of the meeting was gold metal. “The meeting was about negotiations but it has failed and the match will take place without the Indian players.” He also refuted Rajpal’s claim of not demanding money and raised a question about the trio’s intentions of travelling all the way to Chandigrh.

Later, the much hyped and maligned match did take place; albeit 90 minutes after the scheduled time but without the Indian players:

Serious allegation
As it was evident that the major part of the controversy was surrounding money, stick2hockey.com tried to get to the crux of it. The organizers alleged that the players demanded 50 million rupees and as per our source they were going to be paid 30% of the proceeds.

“The players demanded 50 million but that was not possible as this was a charity game and to generate that kind of money it is impossible. Our goal was to promote the game and that is why even the television stars have come to support our initiative,” said Sanjeev Kochar, spokesperson and media manger of the AMR group.

“In the end, the players were offered 5.4 million just hours before the game, but they refused and demanded 20 million; We decided to go ahead with the game without them,” said Kochar about the details of the ‘failed deal.’

Note: Mumbai based journalist Moulin Parikh will be writing for stick2hockey.com. He was in Chandigarh to bring alive the above sequence

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