‘Gill changed the way hockey was administered’

During his tenure, India won its first junior World Cup in 2001 (Hobart), claimed the gold medal in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok after 32 years, organised two Champions Trophy (1996 & 2005) and an Asia Cup (2007).

K.P.S. Gill passed away at a hospital in New Delhi on Friday. He was 82.   -  PTI

K.P. S. Gill, former president of Indian Hockey Federation passed away in New Delhi on Friday. Gill held the top post for a record four terms, starting in 1994. He was also the vice-president of Asian Hockey Federation from 2004-08.

Having got elected in Bhopal for his first term, Gill continued to win in three successive elections in Hyderabad (’98), Guwahati (’02) and Calcutta (’05).

“K.P.S. Gill was a man of exceptional courage,” recalled Olympian Aloysius Edwards. “There were death threats openly issued to him before the 1994 hockey World Cup in Sydney. He watched all the matches he could when he was there, even dropping by in the dressing room during the breaks. As Punjab’s Director General of Police, he left abruptly when some Punjab Police commandos were ambushed by Naxalites in Andhra Pradesh,” reminisced Edwards.

Gill brought about huge changes in the way hockey was administered. “Players had travelled mostly in unreserved railway coaches or stayed in dirty digs at various stadia. After his arrival, we travelled by air and stayed in hotels,” said Edwards, India’s former captain to the 1996 Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia.

After Edwards tended goal in the Four Nations tournament in Australia, which also featured Canada and Korea there was a 10-day camp in Chennai before the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Three prospective goal-keepers were in the running, viz, Edwards, Ashish Ballal and seasoned hand A.B. Subbiah.

After a couple of rounds of trials, Edwards and Subbiah were enlisted for the quadrennial games, while Gill advised Ballal to get ready for the Champions Trophy after complete recovery from a shoulder injury he had suffered.

Post-playing days, Gill appointed Edwards as the national goal-keeper coach. Contrary to popular belief that the feisty cop had his way all the time, Edwards insisted on inclusion of current custodian P.R. Sreejesh in an under 21 team while the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) President favoured a Manipuri player. The supercop gave in on that occasion which saw the Keralite’s career bloom and even assume captaincy of the senior team.

“A keen listener, Gill hardly talked. When he spoke he was not only clear but firm,” concluded Edwards.

K. Jothikumaran, who held the post of secretary during Gill’s four-year term as president, said: ‘[He] was a towering personality. Under his leadership, India organised quite a few International tournaments. Premier Hockey League was started during his time where the players benefited monetarily. During his period, a lot of players from Tamil Nadu represented India.”

During his tenure, India won its first junior World Cup in 2001 (Hobart), claimed the gold medal in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok after 32 years, organised two Champions Trophy (1996 & 2005) and an Asia Cup (2007). However, in 2008, the Indian Olympic Association suspended the IHF indefinitely.

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