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Indian field hockey players on strike

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
  • Hockey India: Players representing nation should not demand money
  • New Delhi will host field Hockey World Cup on February 28 to March 13
  • Indian hockey failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics
  • India
  • Sports

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- India is struggling to revive its national sport, field hockey.

Indian players have gone on strike over pay, in a nation where millions of dollars ride on cricket.

The dispute comes just ahead of the field hockey World Cup. The Indian capital, New Delhi, will host the event from February 28 to March 13.

Players have boycotted World Cup preparations under way at a camp in the western city of Pune since Friday.

"We are a national team and not a school team. We are asking for our right and not a tip," said Prabhjot Singh, a senior player on the squad.

The sport's governing body, Hockey India, has offered players 25,000 rupees ($540) a year to resolve the dispute.

The team rejected as meager the amount, Singh said.

Hockey India acknowledges a financial crunch.

"I don't have any more money," Hockey India President Ashok Mattoo said.

Players representing the country internationally should not demand money, he said. But he will continue to hold talks with the protesting players, he added.

The team has presented a detailed list -- what Singh called its requirements -- to Hockey India. He declined to elaborate.

Fans worry about hockey's downslide in a nation where state governments reward cricketers with big cash prizes when they return home from successful tournaments broadcast live on television.

Indian hockey -- the winner of several Olympic gold medals -- capped off ominous signs of its fall when it failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games.

That led to disintegration of the Indian Hockey Federation, which drew heavy criticism for its management. Hockey India replaced it.

"But both Hockey India and Indian hockey are in disarray now," sports journalist Harpal Singh Bedi said. "None appears to be having a clue how to elevate the sport to its past glory."