Dubai, Oct 1 (UNI) Indian football team captain Baichung Bhutia does not grudge on the cash prizes given to Indian Twenty20 World Cup-winning cricketers but says the government should have rewarded the hockey team for their remarkable Asia Cup victory.
''If the Indian cricket board wants to honour the cricketers or the corporate houses want to derive mileage by announcing the incentives, how can you stop them?,'' said Bhutia who is here on a week long training prior to India's 2010 World Cup first round qualifier against Lebanon.
''There is no point in grudging the popularity of cricket, as it takes the cream of media coverage back in India. No wonder, there will be more takers for the game, though I do feel a little sorry for hockey,'' he told the Gulf News.
The Indian team is undergoing training here before embarking to Beirut where India will play Lebanon on October 8.
The 30-year-old stressed, ''The government should have shown more initiative to reward the hockey players for winning the Asia Cup, where they beat a team like South Korea in the final.'' The Indian football team, ranked 145th in the latest FIFA rankings, created quite a stir by winning Nehru Cup, their first international title in many decades, after beating Syria in a well-fought final in New Delhi in August.
After this achievement, the team had their share of monetary incentives with the prize money of 40,000 dollars and another 40,000 dollars announced by tournament sponsors ONGC. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Delhi government also promised Rs 10 lakh and Rs 5 lakh respectively for the team.
Asked if he considered all this to be enough, Bhutia sounded more realistic. ''The bottomline is we will have to show more success at the international level, only then will the things improve.'' ''However, compared to hockey, I must say we are lucky for the best available football talent in the country can at least make a decent living by signing up with the clubs,'' he said.