And they say keep politicians out of sports.
Can you really? The cut-outs of politicians inside and outside the KSHA (Karnataka State Hockey Association) Stadium for the senior national hockey championships conducted by Hockey India gives the impression that the venue is hosting a political mela and not a sporting event.
Prominent personalities of the ruling BJP in Karnataka graced the occasion and were chief guests at the inaugural and the closing function.
Arun Jaitley, BJP’s leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, BJP state president K S Eshwarappa and state Home Minister R Ashoka’s huge images bore down on people who visited the stadium from Day One.
Arun Jaitley and hockey? Well, he is said to have close connections with Hockey India secretary Narendra Batra.
Jaitley, who is all set to become the President of the BCCI, heads the Delhi & District Cricket Association right now.
Batra is the DDCA (Delhi & Districts Cricket Association) treasurer.
With Hockey Karnataka hosting the event, the state BJP top brass were naturally roped in to provide all the necessary support and the event went through without a hitch.
Of course the major hitch was ignored by one and all.
And that was the fact that two judgements of the Delhi High Court have gone against Hockey India.
As such, Hockey India cannot function as a national body controlling the game in the country.
Hockey India’s appeal against the first judgement by Justice Muralidharan is pending in the Supreme Court.
The final word is yet to be pronounced but obviously, people are in a hurry to establish themselves even if by ignoring or even subverting the judicial process only because they have the political clout to do so.
Many former hockey internationals also were at the venue from time to time.
In fact, many of them are awaiting the final SC verdict so that their dilemma ends.
They have been left in a ‘neither here nor there’ situation.
Hockey stars like Dhanraj Pillay, who in recent times has been the face of India hockey could well have been the chief guest.
He is the only player to have played in four Olympics (1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004), four World Cups (1990, 1994, 1998, and 2002), four Champions Trophies (1995, 1996, 2002, and 2003), and four Asian Games (1990, 1994, 1998, and 2002).
India won the Asian Games (1998) and Asia Cup (2003) under his captaincy.
He was also the highest goal scorer in the Bangkok Asian Games and was the only Indian player named in the World XI during the 1994 World Cup in Sydney, Australia.
Dhanraj received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 1999- 2000 and the Padma Shri in 2000.
But Arun Jaitley has the honour of giving away the winners’ trophy.
If Dhanraj is involved with any team in any capacity, there are others like Badminton legend Prakash Padukone, athlete Kenneth Powell or Ashwini Nachappa, cricketing great G R Vishwanath to name a few, who could have been the chief guest for the function.
Yes, do invite the politician but let the sportsman be the centre of attention.
Then there is the hue and cry and the big debate in sports circles that politicians must be kept out of sports.
Sports personalities and sporting bodies elect them, make them chief guests and still give a call to keep them out.
How can that be justified on any grounds? It is also surprising that no political figure has ever advised sports organisers to ensure that they are not made the chief guests.
Or is it too much to expect that from them.
But why not? Are they not the leaders who should set examples? It is common knowledge that they would not miss a single opportunity to hog the limelight and then speak something that might not have any relevance.
Or worse still, use the platform to criticise their opponents.
Will we ever learn, let alone teach these self-serving politicians a lesson or two? Only sports organisers can answer.