India, or Rs 35 lakh?
It's a quandary no sportsperson should ever find himself in. India striker and Asian Champions Trophy hero Yuvraj Valmiki, who shares a 10x10 shanty with his family, can make Rs 35 lakh by playing in the World Series Hockey tournament at the risk of forfeiting his India jersey. Caught between the needs of an impoverished family and the threat of losing his place in the national team, the striker is in a situation that reflects the sad state of Indian hockey
At 21, while most others his age would be faced with the conundrum of career choices following a degree college certification, India's hockey hero Yuvraj Valmiki is faced with a unique, and possibly career-shattering challenge. He has to make the uncomfortable pick between money and the India jersey.
While most would consider country a sure-shot pick, Valmiki's case is unique.
Having lived his life with his family in a 10x10 shanty in Marine Lines, without even the bare necessities of electricity, drinking water and a bathroom, Valmiki is faced with earning, by his own admission, "as much as Rs 35 lakh" if he plies his trade in the inaugural franchise-based multi-million dollar World Series Hockey (WSH) tournament (December 17-January 12).
However, he may have to forego his India jersey because Hockey India, the game's governing body here, has strictly instructed the national team players to report for a month-long camp in Bengaluru beginning December 11 in preparation for the Olympic qualifiers (on 18 February, 2012). And therein lies the dilemma.
Not even a loo
Unfortunately for Valmiki, his entry into the national team earlier this year coincides with one of the worst possible periods in Indian hockey, where a power struggle between two national bodies - Hockey India (HI) and Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) - to run the game in the country is badly affecting players.
Most members of the national team that recently returned after finishing second at the Champions Challenge in South Africa are in the same boat as Valmiki - having to choose between country and the IHF-backed WSH.
However, Valmiki's dismal financial condition is what separates him from his teammates. "My family's living condition is an open secret. We have been living in a shanty without water and other basic necessities for decades.
Yuvraj Valmiki's parents and brother live in a shanty in Marine Lines, without proper electricity or even a bathroom. He shot to fame after he smashed the penalty against Pakistan to give India a crucial 3-1 lead in the Asian Champions Trophy finals in China in September
Things are so bad that my family members, my mother included, have to answer nature's call in a neighbouring building," a distraught Valmiki, who visited the Mumbai office of MiD DAY recently said.
After Valmiki scored the winning goal against Pakistan in India's Asian Champions Trophy victory, a lot was promised to him and his family by the government, ministers and eminent personalities, but few have delivered.
"It's been three months now and except for an electricity connection nothing else has changed at home," he said, adding, however, that some financial aid did come in.
"I did received some money from well wishers amounting to a few lakhs, but that's not enough to buy even a small house for my family. It hurts to see my father and mother struggle all day and not even have a proper place to rest," adds Valmiki.
Never seen this kind of money
One understands why WSH could prove to be a blessing for him. "I'm expecting to make decent money at the WSH - in addition to the Rs 5 lakh contractual amount, I stand a good chance of winning the emerging player's award (Rs 10 lakh) and maybe even the highest goal-scorer's prize (Rs 25 lakhs), besides the winning team's prize money (1st place - Rs 4 Crore, 2nd place- Rs 2 crore, 3rd & 4th place - Rs 1 crore each), daily allowances (Rs 2,000 per day for two months), endorsements and team incentives which could approximately add up to at least Rs 35 lakh," he rattles off.
"It's great money for a young player like me, considering some of the senior players in the Indian team haven't even seen that kind of money despite having been around for nearly a decade.
The money will improve my family's condition greatly. But as things stand, HI has instructed Indian players to report to the camp, so I'm in a fix over what to do," he added.
The money will improve my family's condition greatly. I've not slept properly in weeks. I hope this ends soon.
Valmiki's dilemma is compounded by the fact that while on one hand HI has threatened disciplinary action against players not reporting to the camp, on the other, organisers of the WSH could possibly drag him (and other players alike) to court if he doesn't play the league.
Ditch the jersey, says mom
It's little wonder then that his family is keen that he swap his India shirt for the WSH jersey, leaving the wily forward torn between his parents and patriotism. "My mother has categorically told me to play in WSH as we desperately need the money.
She says, 'If you are not picked to play for India because you played WSH, it's the country's loss'. She's being emotional but there's logic to her suggestion too. If I don't attend the camp, I could, at the most, be banned for a certain period and this could mean that I miss the 2012 London Olympics.
But I have age on my side, and I can play the next Olympics (2016) for sure. Besides, if I do report to the camp, and God forbid I suffer an injury, I would lose the WSH money and will not be able to play for India either.
I don't know what to do. I've not slept properly in weeks. I hope this fiasco ends soon for me, my teammates, and more so for my family," he signed off.
WSH - The Money Spinner
Rs 5 lakh - Valmiki's signing amount
Rs 25 lakh - Emerging player of the tournament
Rs 4 crore - Winning team
Rs 2 crore runner-up team
Rs 1 crore -3rd place team
Rs 1 crore - 4th place team
Rs 1 crore - Most valuable player
Rs 10 lakh - Best emerging player
Rs 25 lakh - Highest goal scorer
Rs 50 lakh - Best Indian player
Rs 1.2 lakh - Total daily allowance (Rs 2,000 per day x 60 days)