Players continue strike, HI threatens suspension

Players continue strike, HI threatens suspension

 Prabhjot SinghWhile the players went ahead with their threat to stay away from the camp until their dues and incentives were paid, Hockey India too made it clear that boycotting a national camp for pending payments was akin to blackmail.

Frustrated with the turn of events, HI President A K Mattoo, who had only on Saturday night said that all issues had been resolved, threatened the players with suspension if they failed to report to the camp.

"If you ask me it is an option. I can use it today, tomorrow or any other day but I feel they are being misled and wrongly advised. I don't want this to happen," Mattoo told reporters when asked if suspending the players is an option for Hockey India.

"We have taken note of their issues and I have opened up about whatever (money) we have with us, which has never been done before. They know we do not have a sponsor. I see no reason why they have taken this route," he said.

On a day of high drama, the players stayed away from the camp, prompting the HI to send its representative Ikram Khan to negotiate with them.

"We are not training from this morning. We are waiting for Hockey India officials to arrive. We came to know that Hockey India officials are coming to meet the team. The team will  have a meeting with them and let's see what happens," said senior forward Prabhjot Singh, who has been appointed by his teammates as their representative for the negotiations.

"Hopefully, things will be resolved by this evening. If all the boys are satisfied with the outcome, we will end the strike immediately," he added.

Khan hoped a compromise would be reached soon with the players, who are demanding dues and incentives for their performance in 2009 and a graded payment system.
"I think there will be a compromise soon. They will listen to us and I am 100 per cent sure that the matter will be sorted out. I am going to meet the players right now," he told media in Pune.

"I interacted with them yesterday. They are not satisfied with the incentives and the grade system that we are planning and all this will be worked out soon. The players are very clear about what they want and that is fair enough. The only thing is the timing and how they have gone about it," Khan added.

The Maharashtra Hockey Association official, however, insisted that boycotting a national camp was not right way to assert demands.

"They should not have boycotted the camp. They should respect their coaches, after all they are very seIndian Hockey captain Rajpal Singhnior players. They should start their practice and the other process will continue," Khan said.

Sources in Pune said that HI had an additional list of 22 players and had bluntly told the players to give in writing whether they would be attending the camp.

"The players were told that another squad had been prepared and those who wanted to continue playing should report to the camp. But the players refused to do so," the source said.

HI has made it clear that it does not have the money to pay the players and it remains to be seen how the deadlock is resolved. Top HI officials, including Mattoo, are busy with a series of meetings with FIH and Sports Ministry representatives today to sort out the affiliation issues in connection with the impending election.

The standoff is likely to have a bearing on the preparation for the World Cup to be held in Delhi from February 28 to March 13.

Chief coach Jose Brasa again sought to steer clear of the controversy which has rocked the preparations for the mega event, saying it was a matter between the players and HI.
Brasa, however, pleaded for an early settlement of the issue.           

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