India's hockey teams face the prospect of missing their own Commonwealth Games over a deadlock on who governs the sport in the country. While the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has recognised Hockey India as the parent body, the sports ministry wants the revived Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) to take charge again. The ministry's decision follows a court order last month that restored the IHF, two years after it was dissolved by the country's Olympic chiefs over bribery allegations and poor on-field results.
The Indian Olympic Association had sacked the IHF, led by decorated police official Kanwar Pal Singh Gill, in April 2008 and appointed a new body, Hockey India, to run the sport in the country. But the Delhi High Court, ruling on a petition filed by Mr Gill, set aside the government-backed dissolution order, saying a "new beginning" was required to revive hockey in India. The government wrote to the world body last week to end its association with Hockey India and instead recognise the IHF, but the FIH president Leandro Negre was not impressed.
"At the outset we reiterate that we have already recognised Hockey India as a recognised body for the management, control and promotion for hockey in India," Mr Negre wrote to the ministry. "In the circumstances and in the best interest of hockey in India, we would like to inform you that Hockey India is the only body that has been recognised by FIH." Mr Negre also said that only a team selected by Hockey India would be eligible to take part in the women's World Cup to be held in Argentina later this month.
The ministry shot off a letter to the FIH, urging it not to deal with Hockey India since it had no right to run the sport in the country. "Hockey India has lost its national character and therefore cannot be allowed to select or field the national team anymore," a ministry official, Injeti Srinivas, wrote to the FIH. "Granting the status of a national sports federation is within the domain of the country concerned and the FIH should not get directly involved."
Unless the deadlock was broken soon, India could be banned from both the women's World Cup and the Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi from October 3-14. Article 24(2) of the Games charter says that only those athletes or national federations that are not disqualified or suspended by the respective world body are eligible to compete. "I hope the players do not suffer because of this mess," a hockey official said. "The need of the hour is a united body, but I don't know how that will happen."
India, once the masters of field hockey with eight Olympic titles, failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and finished eighth in the World Cup in New Delhi in March this year. The FIH last month awarded the 2011 Champions Trophy to India following the success of the World Cup. * AFP