Media flays Sports Ministry, SAI for coverage restrictions

New Delhi: India’s national hockey coach Harendra Singh Thursday profusely apolgised to the media for not being able to arrange interactive sessions with the players and appealed to the sports ministry to allow reporters to follow the team’s preparation for the World Cup.

An exasperated Harendra was hard put to explain to an angry media why the players were being kept under wraps and all he could do was to make a public appeal to the ministry to allow the media to interact with the players.

Media persons lashed out at the ministry and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) for keeping them away from the National Stadium, the venue for the championship, on the lame excuse of security.

At a crowded news conference, the first since the national team began practicing here Feb 3, Harendra and Hockey India (HI) media adviser Anupam Ghulati were grilled as to why the authorities are so “insensitive” towards the so-called national sport and media, which has a job to do.

The journalists pointed out that even the hotel where the players were billeted was out of bounds and there was no way the players, coach or the officials could be contacted for information.

Harendra and Ghulati were reminded that the World Cup is starting Feb 28, but there has hardly been any coverage of the team’s preparation. Under the circumstances how could the organisers expect to promote such a major event if such restrictions are in force on the media, reporters asked.

“I apologise to the media on behalf of the squad. I appeal to the Sports Ministry, the Sports Authority of India and other agencies to lift all restrictions and allow regular interaction between the media and the players. Hockey is a national sport and we need media to project the event in a positive manner to make it memorable,” Harendra said.

“Let me make it clear that we the coaches and the players do not have any problem in interacting with the media as long as it does not interfere with our training schedule,” he said.

SAI had said that regular media interaction will be held, but it took more than a week for the first briefing. A SAI official told IANS that they had instructed the team managament to appoint a spokesperson for media interaction, and a venue has been hired for the purpose. But he would not say why it took more than week to fructify, hinting that team management did not act immediately.

Ghulati said the decision to keep the media off the training sessions was taken by “higher ups.”

“HI doesn’t have any role to play. The decision to keep the media out of the national stadium during the training sessions was taken by people at the highest level. The decision could be part of the overall security workout for the Commonwealth Games,” he said.

“The HI will make sure that there are regular media interactions every week,” said Ghulati.

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