The hockey World Cup Trophy tour event at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium here on Wednesday witnessed an unpleasant incident as hockey legends V. Baskaran, B.P. Govinda, Leslie Fernandez and V.J. Philips were denied access to the guests’ podium.
After an exhibition match, the trophy was showcased and handed over to Kerala Hockey by Udhayanidhi Stalin, the Tamil Nadu Minister for youth welfare & sports development.
While the politicians, hockey administrators and Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) officials were escorted to the podium, the former players were sidelined.
It was then that Baskaran appealed for a dignified treatment. He said that the hockey players felt insulted for being invited and then ignored.
“Is this a hockey function or what?” he fumed. He demanded that they, especially the World Cup winners (Govinda, Leslie and Philips), be seated in the front row on the podium. Baskaran, captain of India’s 1980 Moscow Olympics gold-winning team, then took the matter to the sports minister. The latter ensured that seats were arranged for the hockey players on the dais.
Philips, in his speech, said: “They (the organisers) forgot how to honour the World Cup winners! I’m extremely distressed. From among the eight crore population of Tamil Nadu, only three of us have won the World Cup and not many have even played in it.
“I’ve played three World Cups, I wasn’t even recognised and they don’t even find me worthy of respect. From playing barefoot on this very ground, I’ve donned the India colours for around 12 years and represented the country in two Olympics apart from the World Cups. If people from our State don’t respect us, where else will we get respect? It’s very disturbing.”
Udhayanidhi assured the hockey heroes that such things won’t happen in the future.
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