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Hockey India pulls out of SOJC, denies relation to Terry Walsh row

Jaspreet Sahni | News18.com jaspreet_sahni

First published: April 19, 2016, 12:48 PM IST | Updated: May 20, 2016
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Hockey India pulls out of SOJC, denies relation to Terry Walsh row
Walsh, tournament director with Malaysian federation, launched a fresh attack on HI in an interview. HI lodged a complaint and pulled out of SOJC simultaneously. But HI said the two issues have no relation.

Hockey India's (HI) withdrawal from the Sultan of Johor Cup (SOJC) later this year has become a topic of discussion in the Malaysian and Indian hockey circles with suggestions that it might have something to do with old foe and former India coach Terry Walsh.

Walsh, now the Technical Director with Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC), has had a love-hate relationship with Indian hockey – with India's high of Asia Games gold under his reign followed by his controversial ouster.

Since that day in November 2014, the Australian has never shied away from taking pot shots at Hockey India. But interestingly, his dig this time coincided with India pulling out of SOJC.

However, Hockey India has clearly denied that there is any relation between the two developments.

The latest in Walsh row

The latest controversy finds its roots in Walsh's interview to The New Indian Express during the recently concluded Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh.

Walsh attacked Batra in that interview saying that the HI president used the "guise of financial issues with USA" to eject him from the post of chief coach.

HI, while ending its contract with Walsh, had accused the Australian of financial misconduct while he was the Technical Director of USA Field Hockey.

"It's a well known fact that Sports Authority of India and Dr. Batra don't see eye to eye...India don't have an ounce of consistency...The federation needs people who understand what needs to be done rather just satisfy the whims of the whites boys in the house," Walsh told the newspaper.

HI took serious offence of the personal attack, with its CEO Elena Norman shooting off a letter to Gary Walsh – Tournament Director of the 2016 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup – citing "breach of the FIH Code of Conduct" and asking for action against Walsh.

Elena called Walsh's comments as "derogatory" while attaching the The New Indian Express article with her mail (which is in possession of News18).

"As you are aware as the Host National Association of the Sultan of Azlan Shah Tournament, the Malaysian Hockey Confederation Representatives are consisted as “Participants” as per Point 3 (iii) of the FIH Code of Conduct,” the CEO wrote in her mail.

And since the former India coach is currently Technical Director with MHC, Elena requested "that action is taken against Mr. Terry Walsh under the FIH Code of Conduct".

When contacted, HI president Narinder Batra said such behaviour is unacceptable.

"Elena filed the complaint with my permission and I am aware of the issue. Like we have taken serious objection to Pakistan's misbehaviour during the Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar, we will not tolerate this as well," he said.

The SOJC pull-out and its relation (or not) with Walsh

While HI maintains that its pull-out from the SOJC has nothing to do with the complaint against Walsh, the two developments taking place simultaneously does raise a few eyebrows.

Batra says that their decision to not play in the Johor Cup was due to a change in its schedule, which is too close to the junior World Cup in India.

The 6th edition of the SOJC will be played from October 31 to November 6 this year, and the junior World Cup begins December 1.

"There is too little time left now [between the two events]. We can't risk our players with such a small gap. It's impossible to give them a break and then re-assemble for the World Cup camp. It's too tight," Batra said.

However, sources close to MHC told News18 that India confirmed its entry for SOJC on April 5 but then withdrew on April 14, the same day that the complaint against Walsh was mailed by the HI CEO.

"Too much of a coincidence," the source said suggesting that the pull-out has something to do with Walsh's verbal attack. "No change of [SOJC) dates made [between April 5 and 14]."

But Batra stood his ground when asked about the same.

"The two issues are being needlessly mixed. It has nothing to do with each other. As I have said, we can't tolerate anyone trying to demean us, especially when holding an official position with the host of a tournament, which is in direct breach of FIH Code of Conduct.

"We have also conveyed it to FIH that it is unacceptable," the HI president said before clarifying his stand on SOJC withdrawal.

"Not playing the Johor Cup is purely based on the change of dates. We have now changed our plans and confirmed participation of our junior team for a tournament in Spain this October," he added.

But there remains stark contradiction between the claims made by the two parties; however, with Hockey India making up its mind to skip SOJC and travel to Spain, there doesn't seem any chance of India visiting Johor Bahru for the tournament they have been part of since its inception.

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