Sports minister Anurag Thakur questions Hockey India’s decision to withdraw from 2022 CWG

Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Sunday came down heavily on Hockey India’s decision to pull out of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England next year, saying that this is not the federation’s decision alone to make.

While speaking to reporters here, the Minister said the government should have been consulted before announcing such a major decision.

“I think any federation should refrain from passing these kinds of statements. They should discuss it with the government first. It is not the federation’s team that is going. It is the country’s team that goes for an event. In a country of 130 crores, there just are not 18 players who can represent the country. I believe Hockey India should consult with the government and the Sports department,” Thakur said.

“I have clarified that in such a big country, there just are not 18 players who can represent the country. There is no shortage of talent in hockey in our country. If you see cricket, the IPL is going on and then there is the World Cup. If they can’t play, then why cannot the same be done in other sports? I understand Asian Games is being prioritised, I am not going into this issue, I am just saying where India will be playing just does not lie with the federation, it lies with the government as well,” he added.

Hockey India recently confirmed the withdrawal of its men’s and women’s teams from next year’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games, citing COVID-19 concerns and UK’s discriminatory quarantine rules for travellers from the country.

In a letter to Indian Olympic Association (IOA) chief Narinder Batra, HI president Gyanendro Ningombam cited the ‘discriminatory restrictions’ that are ‘biased against India’ as one of the reasons to pull out. HI also reasoned that there is only a 32-day window available between the Birmingham Games (July 28-August 8) and the Hangzhou Asian Games (September 10-25), which is a direct qualifier for 2024 Paris Olympics.

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