With Olympic medals, the winners expect a financial windfall. At the Tokyo Olympics, the seven Indian medal winners have been promised mouth-watering cash prizes by the various Indian state governments.
The men’s hockey team that ended India’s wait of 41 years for an Olympic medal is also being rewarded. Haryana government has announced 2.5 crore for each player from the state that represented India in Tokyo, Madhya Pradesh will give Rs 1 crore to each of its two players, Punjab will award Rs 1 crore to each of its player. Besides, players are being promised jobs, lands and more.
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While it’s unfair to compare eras, it’s prudent to take a step back and remember the state of the hockey (in terms of monetary rewards) few years back in the country in order to get a fair idea of how far the sport has come.
While the bronze medal win at Tokyo will possibly be regarded as one of the biggest triumphs for men’s hockey team in decades, it’s not that they haven’t been winning major tournaments in the past. They have been medalled multiple times in Asian Games, Asia Cup, Asian Champions Trophy, Champions Trophy and more since the 1980 Moscow Games gold medal.
Naturally, the victories have followed rewards from governments and authorities but a particular instance comes to mind when the Indian hockey players were so disappointed by the prize money that they rejected it, deeming it as too less for the efforts put in by them.
This happened after India defeated Pakistan in the final of the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy in China. At a felicitation ceremony in New Delhi, players were rewarded a cash prize of Rs 25,000 each by Hockey India post the triumph.
The then captain Rajpal Singh flatly refused it.
We were offered Rs 25,000 each by HI secretary general Narinder Batra as reward for winning the Asian Champions Trophy but we all refused to take it because it a very small reward considering our achievement," Gurbaz Singh, senior member of the team then told PTI explaining the step.
So much upset was Gurbaz that he predicted that if the apathy towards hockey continues, children will not be interested in taking up the sport and will move towards other disciplines.
“If such things continue, there will be a day when there will be very few kids interested in playing hockey. They would rather opt for cricket or any other individual sport," he had said.
Their actions did result in positive change. When the men’s team won their next major tournament - a gold at the 2014 Asian Games - the Hockey India announced cash awards of Rs 2.5 lakh each to the players. Players of the women’s team that clinched bronze at the event were also to receive Rs 1 lakh each.
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