Hockey experts raise pitch for insurance on national duty

Indian hockey players have always been a neglected lot when it comes to getting basic amenities and senior team goalkeeper Baljit Singh's career-threatening eye injury is a wake up call for the administrators to set things right before it is too late.

In foreign countries insurance cover for athletes are a must in any contact sport, both at club and country level, but for Indian hockey players, it is a distant dream.

However, 28-year-old Baljit's injury has united the hockey fraternity in advocating the need for insuring players during national duty.

Baljit underwent an emergency eye operation at AIIMS here after suffering a rupture in his globe (eye ball) that damaged the retina, cornea and lens of his right eye after he was hit by a golf ball during a national team training camp in Pune.

Sympathising with the Chandigarh keeper, a senior national team member said it's high time the administrators seriously take up the matter of insuring players.

"It's a grave injury, very bad news for Indian hockey. I wish to God to give strength to Baljit and his family in this hour of crisis," the player said on condition of anonymity.

"There is no insurance coverage for us when we are in a national camp or playing in an international tournament. After Baljit's incident, I strongly feel all the players should be insured because in a contact sport like hockey, anything can happen on the field," he added.

He said a few years back, team sponsor Sahara did come up with the idea of insuring the players but the plan never materialised.

Olympian Baljit Singh Saini went a step further and said all athletes participating at competitive level should be insured, irrespective of the nature of the sport.

"I am not aware if there is any insurance cover for hockey players. But in my opinion even if the game is not a contact sport, insurance cover is a must for sportsperson playing at the competitive level," said Saini, who represented India at Atlanta and Sydney Olympics.
Saini also wished a speedy recovery of Baljit, who according to doctors has very little chance of regaining full vision.

"What happened is very sad, I wish all the best. Although I have not played enough with him, I know he is a true gentleman of the game," Saini said of his namesake.

The idea of providing an insurance cover to players also got support from a national coach, who pointed out that the team was only insured during international assignments, provided the visa rule of the host nation demands so.

"There is no insurance coverage for players during international and domestic events. The players are insured only during an international tour if the visa rule calls for it. But in most of the countries it is not necessary," the coach said.

"Hockey can be a risky game, so I feel the players should be provided with insurance."

The coach also cited the example of India skipper Sandeep Singh's life-threatening bullet injury before the 2006 Germany World Cup.

Sandeep was accidentally hit by a bullet while travelling in a train from Kalka to Delhi to join the World Cup-bound squad.

"See Sandeep's case, it could have been more serious. He was hit by a bullet when he was on the move to join the national team. When we leave our home to join the team or attend a camp we are on duty," the coach said.

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