India sweep FIH awards, world questions process

Eight win individual honours, players from other teams who did well during voting period upset; global body issues clarification

Published: 07th October 2021 04:15 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th October 2021 10:31 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  On Wednesday, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) announced the eight winners of the Hockey Stars Awards, one of the biggest individual prizes available in the sport. All the eight available awards went to Indians and coaches of both senior national teams. Even if there is an automatic India advantage — fans form a percentage of the overall vote and India has the most number of fans — former and current players of other countries weren’t particularly thrilled about the outcome. 

Replying to the FIH’s post on Instagram, a lot could only manage ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji. Belgium’s Victor Wegnez, part of the team that won the Olympic gold, said ‘what a joke this is’. Argentina’s Gonzalo Peillat, who won gold with them in 2016, called it a ‘scandal’. “I have been saying for a long time, this system is completely poorly made and unprofessional,” he wrote. “This causes the federation that represents the coaches and players to lose all kinds of respect internationally. (...) then we ask ourselves why we are not growing as a sport #skandal”. Belgium’s Florent Van Aubel sarcastically congratulated ‘India on winning the 2023 World Cup’.   

The Belgium hockey federation themselves were inclined to quote tweet the original FIH post with a rebuke of sorts on Twitter. “Hockey Belgium is very disappointed with the outcome of @FIH_Hockey Star Awards,” the body wrote. “A gold winning team with multiple nominees in all categories but doesn’t win a single award demonstrates failure of the voting system. We will work with FIH to ensure a fairer system in the future.” 

This seems valid question considering somebody like Alexander Hendrickx, who scored the most number of goals at the Olympics and in the Pro League (two of the main tournaments within the voting period from Jan 1, 2020 to September 2021), finished in second place behind Harmanpreet Singh in the ‘Player of the Year (Man)’ category. Belgium coach Shane McLeod also finished second behind Graham Reid even after leading his side to titles in both the Pro League as well as the Olympics. 

Voting process
The process to elect the best men’s and women’s players is done via three voting groups — national associations (50%), fans and players (25%) and media (25%). The criticism levelled at the world body was so severe they themselves released a statement shortly after. “FIH would like to recall some important principles of the FIH Hockey Stars Awards voting process, which has been clearly communicated before the vote,” they said. This principle includes allowing the sport’s chief stakeholders (teams, players, fans and media) to vote, giving national associations mean coaches and captains and giving a higher weightage to the latter voting group. 

However, they also indicate that all winning athletes anyway topped ‘in each of the three voting groups’. That essentially means Gurjit Kaur (best women’s player), Harmanpreet Singh, Savita (best women’s goalkeeper), Sharmila Devi (rising star; women), PR Sreejesh (best men’s goalkeeper) and Vivek Sagar Prasad (rising star; men) came out on top in ‘National Association’, ‘Fans/ Players’ and ‘Media’. Sjoerd Marijne (best women’s coach) and Graham Reid were the other two award winners. 

One reason why India may have swept the awards was a lack of voting from national associations. Out of the 138 associations affiliated and eligible to vote, only 79 federations cast their vote. FIH promised to carry a review to address this in the future. “FIH will conduct a review of the FIH Hockey Stars Awards and make adjustments wherever deemed necessary. In particular, we will focus on establishing why a number of National Associations failed to vote,” the world body said. 

Awards winners

FIH Player of the Year 
Gurjit Kaur 
FIH Coach of the Year 
Sjoerd Marijne
FIH Goalkeeper of the Year
FIH Rising Star of the Year 
Sharmila Devi
FIH Player of the Year 
Harmanpreet Singh
FIH Coach of the Year 
Graham Reid 
FIH Goalkeeper of the Year 
PR Sreejesh
FIH Rising Star of the Year 
Vivek Sagar Prasad   


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