Former greats slam KPS Gill for his remarks

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{image-hockey thotta padam_14032008.jpg}New Delhi, March 14: Former hockey players on Friday lambasted KPS Gill for terming the greats of the game as "professional mourners" and said the IHF chief should own up his own failures instead of making such "stupid" statements.

After India's failure to qualify for the Olympics for the first time ever, former Olympians and greats of the game had criticised Gill and held his "autocratic ways of functioning" as the reason behind the country's flop show. Strongly retaliating at critics, Gill said the former hockey players who have been demanding his resignation were "professional mourners" who take pride in running down the establishment.

"There is a coterie of five or six former Olympians who are just professional mourners. They just know how to do breast beating, howling and crying whenever they get the chance. That is their choice, I cannot do anything."

In a scathing response, Olympian Ashok Kumar, son of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand and the man who scored the winning goal in the 1975 World Cup final, said the players were mourning the death of IHF and singing the elegy for Indian hockey's plight. "Yes, the IHF has died and we are all mourning it. It's indeed an occasion to mourn. I think it is a stupid statement," Ashok Kumar said.

"The present IHF establishment has sent the team to three Olympics, four World Cups and several Champions Trophy. We come seventh or eighth in Olympics, 11th in World Cup and sixth in Champions Trophy. Isn't it a reason to mourn? Does he want us to cheer him for all this?"

Ashok Kumar pointed out that not only former players, but hockey lovers and Members of Parliament were also criticising the IHF for its failure. "What about the common people and what about the CPI MPs who said 'Gill should be thrown out?' And what about Rahul Gandhi? They are not players,"

Ashok Kumar said Gill had no right to ridicule the players who play for the country by dint of their merit. "We are selected and not elected. A player is selected on merit only while any stupid person can win elections. We have played for the country."

Another member of the 1975 World Cup winning team, Aslam Sher Khan said to run down the former players was an act of stupidity. "To use such kind of language against the players who have played for the country speaks about one's stupidity. Earlier, he (Gill) had reportedly said that Pargat Singh played the Olympics by 'doing boot polish.' Such statements should be highly condemned," he said.

Sukhbir Singh Grewal, who played the 1978 World Cup, said it was unfortunate to speak against players who have proven their worth. "The players he is criticising have proved themselves and played for the country. You cannot point finger at somebody who has proved his worth. People say something because nothing has happened (under the present IHF administration) in the last 14 years. The basic idea is to see hockey come up," he said.

Grewal said professionals should take charge of the system to improve the standards of the game. "The standard of international sports is streets ahead of us and we need professionals to rise upto that level. It cannot be achieved with a one man show," he said.

Grewal said due to the faulty way of functioning of the IHF, the national team was not being able to play enough matches against the top sides of the world. "They prepare their calendar three-four years before. And we make ours on day to day basis. Then how they would be able to accommodate our invitations," he said.

Grewal said the IHF must accept its failures and should be open to new ideas and people to improve itself.

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