New Delhi, Feb 26: Five-time champions India were today forced to withdraw from next month's prestigious Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament after the Sports Authority of India refused to bear the travel expenditure of the national team.
According to reliable source in Hockey India, SAI DG Gopal Krishan has refused to clear the airfare of the team, citing inflated budget.
“We have withdrawn the national team from the Azlan Shah Cup after the government refused to bear the to and fro airfares stating that we have exceeded the budget,” a reliable source told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
“It is an unfortunate incident as it is the SAI who has given us the go-ahead to hold the national camp for this tournament here. And now they are saying no.
“It is demoralising for the players. The government just had to bear the airfares as all other expenditures, including lodging and food during the tournament were supposed to be taken care by the local organisers,” he said.
On part of SAI, a senior official informed that the proposal submitted by the Hockey India was overshooting the specific budget earmarked for the tour.
“We can't provide the airfares as we have certain limits that we can't exceed,” the official said in defence.
India, who won the Azlan Shah Cup five times (1985, 1991, 1995, 2009, 2010), were the bronze medallist in the last edition of tournament.
Keeping in mind the FIH Junior World Cup to be held in the country later this year, India had opted to field a young, new-look squad under Danish Mujataba for this year's Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Ipoh, Malaysia from March 9 to 17.
Apart from India, the other participating nations in this year's Azlan Shah Cup are arch-rivals Pakistan, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand and hosts Malaysia.
Incidentally, the government's sudden move to derail the national hockey team's trip to Malaysia came a day after HI accused the security staffs of SAI-controlled Major Dhyan Chand Stadium of abusing its offcials.