'Mumbai hockey will not suffer'
Mumbai-based former India hockey players, Olympians, Arjuna awardees and Shiv Chhatrapati awardees have interestingly come out in support of the state government's directive to cancel the lease of the land allotted to the Mumbai Hockey Association (MHA).
In a letter issued on October 17, 2012, the state has stated that the land is being taken back from MHA due to “violations of the lease agreement and rules and regulations, failure to encourage hockey, utilisation of the plot for wedding receptions and other commercial functions, renovation of the stadium, administration office without the government’s consent.”
“The government has done the right thing here. They should now invite former India players to come into the administrative fold to run hockey in Mumbai. I am willing to contribute whole-heartedly to this cause. Whatever happens, Mumbai hockey will not suffer as a result of this,” said four-time Olympian and former Indian hockey captain Dhanraj Pillay, who along with a group of former internationals had approached then deputy chief minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar claiming the inappropriate functioning of the MHA by a group of people, who have nothing to do with hockey.
The allegations in the recent directive are a consequence of this meeting.
Olympian Joaquim Carvalho cited an example claiming MHA’s ‘failure to encourage hockey.’ “When the multi-million dollar franchise-based World Series Hockey approached MHA last year with a three-year contract to host matches at their venue, the officials refused to agree to the term of the contract. They claimed that they could only sign a one-year contract and that the new committee in the following year, would sign the extension. However, the MHA were and are even today accepting wedding reception bookings two years in advance. In fact, for the second edition of the WSH, the MHA authorities have already told them that they cannot change the dates of the weddings scheduled at the venue and instead the dates of the matches would have to be changed. Is this encouraging hockey?” asked Carvalho.
Another city-based Olympian — Mervyn Fernandis — claimed the MHA are fundamentally wrong in not providing memberships to affiliated clubs and former and present Mumbai-based international players. “All sports associations across the country, function with the help of their affiliated clubs. It’s the clubs that make an association and not vice versa.
However, at MHA, the affiliated clubs get zero-recognition. They are also denied voting rights which is only restricted to a close set of people who run the association. This is unfair. The government has decided to take back the land which is rightfully theirs because they are obviously unhappy with the way things are being conducted at the moment. They now plan to promote the game in a different way and this is a welcome move,” said Fernandis, who also sees a personal benefit in this change.
“Despite, having played hockey for Mumbai for decades, I have always been labeled a Delhi player because I represented Indian Airlines (a former Delhi-based outfit before the recent merger between IA and Air-India). Now, hopefully I will be absorbed into the Mumbai fold and will support the cause of the national game,” Fernandis signed off.