The controversy over FIH Hockey Stars awards took a new turn on Wednesday when Hockey India (HI) wrote a sharply worded letter to the International Hockey Federation (FIH) apologizing to Hockey Belgium for criticism after Indian players and coaches erased the accolades.
“We urge the FIH Executive Director Mr. Thierry Weil to either kindly ask the Belgian Federation to issue an official public apology for the humiliating comments on the achievements of Indian athletes and coaches on social media, and if not, then refer the matter to the FIH Administration. A panel for a thorough investigation into what constitutes discrimination / racial discrimination against Indian athletes and coaches, ”wrote HI President Gyanendro Ningombam in a letter to HT.
On October 6, a furor broke out in the hockey world after Indian players and coaches won all eight awards. Several top players hit the FIH’s voting system, making fun of it on social media.
World No. 1 and world champions Belgium (won gold at the Tokyo Olympics and India won bronze) represented by their federation expressed disappointment at the “failure of the voting system” after none of their players won any awards despite a triumph in Tokyo. “This is not normal! The credibility and image of our sport are again in difficult times. Too bad, ”he tweeted on the cover of the Belgian team.
A statement from HI reads: “We believe that the public statements of dissatisfaction with the announcement of the Indian winners are markedly disrespectful and not in the spirit of sport. Hockey India has made great efforts to ensure good participation in all categories from our country and now feels publicly punished for the full participation and support of Indian nominees. ”
Although the FIH Awards were established in 1998, India won for the first time only last year, in three of the eight categories.
“It is disappointing that the Belgian Federation would rather question the voting system and the legitimacy of the Indian winners than actually take responsibility for not encouraging more voting at all and supporting its athletes. The crux of the matter is that these national associations must first introspect to see their real level of participation and interest from the outset instead of now questioning the system after publishing results that do not work in their favor, ”Ningombam wrote.
For the awards, 50% of the votes come from national federations – represented by captains and coaches, 25% from the media and 25% from fans and players. Significantly, only 79 of the 138 national bodies voted – Africa (11 out of 25), Europe (19 out of 42), Oceania (3 out of 8) and Pan America (17 out of 30). Asia (29 of 33) had the best percentage.
“It is a shame that the European Hockey Federation (EHF) is sitting quietly and not taking responsibility for the lack of activation and seriousness of voting by their member federations, while allowing its athletes and member associations to undermine results and show disrespect for the winner. Indian athletes legitimately won the polls, but the brilliance of the victories was completely marred by such negative comments from fellow athletes and national associations. Is it fair that these athletes are exposed to such harassment and mental intimidation? ” Ningombam’s statement stands.
“The FIH Board of Directors must carefully examine the complaints on behalf of the Belgian Federation about what I consider to be a case of discrimination / racial discrimination and how humiliating, psychologically traumatic and offensive it is for Indian athletes and coaches. Hockey India cannot stand by and allow the efforts and achievements of Indian athletes and coaches to be called into question in this way. ”
There were reports that the votes of a record 300,000 fans – much of the Indian subcontinent – could help Indian candidates win, especially in the post-Olympic euphoria. FIH Executive Director Weil said Monday that the winners would remain the same without fan votes. He said the FIH is likely to set up a working group to examine the reward system.