K P S Gill, former inspector general of Punjab Police and president of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), has ruled Indian hockey with an iron fist for over a decade. Shocking defeats, allegations of bribery against a senior IHF official and a sporting fraternity ganged up against him: most men would admit defeat and walk into the sunset if they faced so many challenges. But K P S Gill is not like most men. CNN-IBN Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai talked to him about the state of Indian hockey.
Rajdeep Sardesai: The Sports Minister wants you to resign as IHF president and the IOA (Indian Olympic Association) is having an emergency meeting. Are you at all considering resigning?
K P S Gill: Not at all. Not at all.
Rajdeep Sardesai: You don’t see yourself under any form of pressure after the sting operation showed IHF secretary K Jyothikumaran accepting money, possibly to select a player for the Indian team.
K P S Gill: Not my secretary—the secretary of the Indian Hockey Federation.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Your right hand man.
K P S Gill: No, all members (of IHF) are my right hand man—every single person.
Rajdeep Sardesai: No one believes that Jyothikumaran could be doing what he was doing on TV without in some way your knowledge in a sense. He has been there for 14 years and you have been there for 14 years. If he was using money to select players, then surely you would have known about it.
K P S Gill: There is no question, not a single incident of any player—14 years, I would say even 20 years, 40 years—being selected on the basis of money. Not a single incident in the IHF.
Rajdeep Sardesai: The Indian hockey cap cannot be bought?
K P S Gill: No, for ever since the start of IHF till today not a single player can buy the cap.
Rajdeep Sardesai: What is your response then to (Sports Minister) Manohar Singh Gill, who was ironically your junior in college? What is your response to the Sports Minister when he says to you it is time for you to review your position? What would you like to tell him?
K P S Gill: I wouldn’t like to tell him anything. I have not taken note of that statement. You are bringing it to my notice but I have nothing much to say about it.
Rajdeep Sardesai: You don’t feel any form of pressure as a result?
K P S Gill: Not at all.
Rajdeep Sardesai: The fact that IOA has called for an emergency meeting, the fact that demands are being made that there needs to be revamp in Indian hockey.
K P S Gill: There have been many, many demands in this country. We have reached a certain level (and) we have to rise higher.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, we are not in the Olympics…
K P S Gill: Doesn’t matter.
Rajdeep Sardesai: We didn’t qualify for the Asian Games finals; we are struggling at every level. Don’t you think someone must be held accountable; someone must take responsibility? And you as IHF president have to take responsibility
K P S Gill: We are not in the Asian Games finals. You know till the Asian Games —the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games are regarded in this country as two important events—there was no place to train. There was no place in the country to train. Where do you think we trained?
Rajdeep Sardesai: So who are you going to hold responsible for the decline of the national game? The governments who are not providing you support to the so-called national game?
K P S Gill: It was the Sports Authority of India (SAI) which has to prepare these places for training. We had two places which were earmarked for hockey: one was Patiala and one was Bangalore. For last five years there is no place to train.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Are you saying previous Sports Ministers like Mani Shanker Aiyer—
K P S Gill: Everyone down the line must take the responsibility. Each single Sports Minister who was there during these five-six years has done nothing at all. The only one who did something was Madam Uma Bharti.
Rajdeep Sardesai: So you are saying the Sports Ministers and the sports authorities run by the government must take prime responsibility for the decline of hockey, not K P S Gill?
K P S Gill: Absolutely.
Rajdeep Sardesai: So K P S Gill has no responsibility as the head of the hockey federation? You don’t even consider resigning if your team fails to qualify?
K P S Gill: If a team doesn’t qualify, and you take all the team games in this country—Olympic games, I am not talking about cricket—we are the only ones who can still hope to qualify for the Olympics. No other Olympic game in this country—team game—can qualify.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, you have ordered an enquiry into the sting operation against Jyothikumaran. If it is proven that he had taken a bribe to try and get a player selected in the team, will you ensure that he never has anything to do with hockey and would you also take some kind of responsibility for your official’s involvement?
K P S Gill: Don’t link up the two things. Then you are making me biased in his favour. If you link up the two things then I would have a sort of insidious bias in his favour. Leave it.
Rajdeep Sardesai: So whatever the enquiry panel says about Jyothikumaran will be final?
K P S Gill: What ever the enquiry committee says will be acted upon as per its recommendations.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Will you at any stage take some form of constructive responsibility perhaps that one of your senior most officials could be indulging in corruption?
K P S Gill: If that was to happen in this country all state ministries, the Central government would be in a constant state of resignations.
Rajdeep Sardesai: How are you then going to respond to those who say that you are now 74 and it is time to yield power in a sense to a younger generation, to pass on authority.
K P S Gill: Yeah, let it happen at the top. Let it happen in the ministries of the governments of India; let the youngsters come up. All the political parties are clamouring ‘please, give the youngsters a chance’.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sports Minister M S Gill has gone public. He has said it is time now for younger people to take charge of sports administrations.
K P S Gill: I am not taking notice of anything which the Sports Minister said. He has made a statement and I have no response to that statement.
Rajdeep Sardesai: You don’t think you are in some way accountable to the Minister or the Ministry?
K P S Gill: I am accountable to my own conscience much more than anyone else.
Rajdeep Sardesai: What about hockey and to hockey players, many of whom have said it is time for you to go? The Zafar Iqbals, the Dhanraj Pillais, Pargat Singh…they are distinguished former captains
K P S Gill: Paanch jamuren hain jo bhadakte rahte hain. (These five buffoons keep getting angry) Who made Pargat Singh the captain? He was in the Olympics—captain twice—do you remember what was his record?
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, I am asking you are not going to listen to the voice of Indian hockey?
K P S Gill: Voice of Indian hockey, yes. To those who were the winners, the victors who brought glory to Indian hockey; not to those who took Indian hockey down to the depths.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Is it fair to target the hockey players? They have given their blood and sweat for this country…
K P S Gill: And I have not given my blood and sweat?
Rajdeep Sardesai: Of course, you have.
K P S Gill: Are the hockey players the only ones who have given their blood and sweat. I can tell you hundred-and-one things but because I keep quiet, because I don’t speak about these things these people are having a heyday and one or two channels are every day propping them up. This the time for the media to introspect about these channels.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Are you suggesting the sting operation is concocted?
K P S Gill: The sting operation, till proved otherwise, is totally false and concocted.
Rajdeep Sardesai: This is what a politician says. We don’t expect that from K P S Gill; your reputation was of someone of great integrity. Shouldn’t you first be suggesting that that yes, there could be something rotten out there and let us look what is rotten in Indian hockey?
K P S Gill: They are talking of a particular player, saying (in the sting operation) that please select him. The bloody fellow has already been selected three months earlier and he has played for the Indian juniors. They go on a sting operation and they are not even clear about their facts.
Rajdeep Sardesai: The fact is a sting operation has show Jyothikumaran accepting money for organizing some kind of fictitious tournament and he was accepting it in cash, which in itself could invite all kinds of legal implications. Shouldn’t you first be saying ‘Mr Jyothikumaran, I want an explanation from you’, instead of saying he is innocent until he is proven guilty?
K P S Gill: He is, that is the law of the land. The whole structure of Indian jurisprudence is based on that concept. Just because you want to dramatise a certain incident doesn’t mean you throw the law out of the window.
Rajdeep Sardesai: For several years allegations of a very serious nature are being made against Jyothikumaran and Indian hockey. Selection is influenced by external factors, by team sponsors, by possibly even those whom you like and those whom you don’t like. Good players like Gagan Ajit Singh have fallen by the wayside in Indian hockey.
K P S Gill: I don’t want to discuss individual players. What is important is we have to go by the form on the day we are making the selection and form is not constant.
Rajdeep Sardesai: So players keep getting chopped and changed? There is insecurity in the Indian hockey team—18 coaches in 14 years. Isn’t that a real indictment of Indian hockey?
K P S Gill: Don’t lose your blood pressure over that. Please try to examine what is happening at the moment. Our team is in Australia; they are still getting over the shock, defeat in Chile. They played against Australia, the Olympic champions—they scored the first goal, kept that lead up and then conceded two goals and then made it a draw. Now if we can play against the best in the world and draw that match in their hometown it says something for the players and their commitment.
Rajdeep Sardesai: It shows that we have talent but that talent is not being exploited to the fullest—that you are not providing them with the environment in which their talent can be exploited to the fullest.
K P S Gill: The talent has to be exploited in a certain manner of way. We are acting according to rules which were framed 50 years back. The Chinese team has been constantly on tour for the last two years. They came here to Champions Cup in Chennai; they played friendly matches with all the teams. We are restricted to two tours in a year—hockey doesn’t have the finances.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, you have been saying that for 14 years: hockey doesn’t have the finances; the government has to provide me facilities without which nothing can change. At some stage you have got to say enough is enough, I give up.
K P S Gill: I will tell you one thing, and this I say with emphasis. If anyone can move the governments—one government or the other, because I am a non-political man—I think I am the man who can do it.
Rajdeep Sardesai: But you have not been able to do it.
K P S Gill:Eleven astro-turfs are coming up for first time in the history of the country all at one go.
Rajdeep Sardesai: But at some stage you have got to say that I tried my best but I couldn’t succeed. Fourteen years in a sport and you haven’t been able to succeed. For the first time we have not been able to reach the Olympics? Shouldn’t you be taking responsibility? I want to know from you who is to be held accountable?
K P S Gill: The question is not accountability. It is a game and there have been failures at different levels. The question is to rectify those failures and to look ahead and proceed further. It is not that the super-cop was created in one day; it took a very long time to create a super-cop.
Rajdeep Sardesai: How will long it take to recreate Indian hockey?
K P S Gill: We are on the verge; I do not despair. You are the people who despair.
Rajdeep Sardesai: In 14 years the Indian hockey team has not come anywhere near winning either a World Cup or Olympics gold. We have had 18 coaches in 14 years—some of whom have been thrown out in humiliating circumstances. The International Hockey Federation is also saying there is something wrong with Indian hockey.
K P S Gill: We were on the verge of qualifying for the semi-finals for the first time after about 20 years. Two of our most senior players committed mistakes but that doesn’t mean hockey went down. It is match we lost but should have won.
Rajdeep Sardesai: If hockey is turning the corner, as you are saying, then why is it that every senior player seems so disgusted with the state of hockey. Every senior player one talks to says I will never allow my son to play hockey.
K P S Gill: There are so many players who are sending their sons to play hockey. Milka Singh didn’t allow his son to go into athletics—his son is playing golf. What does it mean?
Rajdeep Sardesai: You are saying the Pargats, the Dhanrajs, the Zafar Iqbals their hockey views means nothing to you.
K P S Gill: Their views mean something when they discuss hockey.
Rajdeep Sardesai: When they say K P S Gill runs a one-man show, decides selections according to his own whims and fancy, you believe they are running a campaign against you. Aslam Sher Khan says he has 100 MPs who will sign a petition against you, to remove you as IHF chief.
K P S Gill: Where are those 100 MPs. I don’t want to speak against individuals but where are those 100 MPs. Did you ever take the trouble of verifying those 100 MPs? . Did you ever take the trouble of looking at the list? 100 MPs—my God that would be unique in the history of this country if that happens.
Rajdeep Sardesai: When the minister says it is time for a younger generation to take over…
K P S Gill: Minister’s remarks I am not taking cognizance of at all.
Rajdeep Sardesai: You are saying it is not a Gill vs Gill battle?
K P S Gill: It is not.
Rajdeep Sardesai: What is that you are willing to take cognizance of? In 2010 the World Cup tournament is scheduled to come to India? The International Hockey Federation has raised questions on whether India is the best place to hold the tournament.
K P S Gill: No, they have not.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Is K P S Gill going to remain a part of Indian hockey or are you going to say that maybe the time has come to allow someone to take over?
K P S Gill:Well, not at the moment.
Rajdeep Sardesai: How are you judging yourself by?
K P S Gill: I look around and I find nobody. You tell me a name. You are sitting here, tell me a name. You are asking me why don’t you go, you tell me a name.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Till you find a better person, you believe for the best for the job.
K P S Gill: Yeah. Not in the basis of his self-confessed ability but one the basis of what I have seen—person or persons doing collectively or individually—nobody.
Rajdeep Sardesai: K P S Gill, thanks very much for talking to us.