New Delhi : Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi Thursday condemned the government's decision to downgrade hockey to the "general" category even as former Olympians termed the decision a "childish act".
"It is indeed very unfortunate that the good news of a young Indian hockey team reaching the semi-finals of the prestigious Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey tournament was accompanied by the decision on part of the sports ministry dropping it from the priority list," Kalmadi said in a statement released by IOA.
"Hockey is India's national game with a very rich legacy. It is going through a lean phase, but from all indications it is on a comeback trail. At this juncture, the ministry should support the sport instead of demoting or discouraging it," he added.
According to Kalmadi, hockey is still one of the few sports where India is still among the world's top 10-12 teams.
Former Indian Olympians termed the government's decision as a "childish act" and asked Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar to review it.
"It is illogical and a childish act on part of the government to take such decisions," former Olympian Gurbux Singh told IANS.
"It is a very unfortunate decision, keeping in mind that we have performed badly only in the recent past. It will not help the cause (of restoring glory) and will only degrade the standard of the game in the country," said Gurbux, who is also a national selector.
Aiyar had Wednesday announced in parliament that men's hockey has been "demoted" from the "priority" to the "general" category because of the continuous poor performance of the team in all major tournaments in the recent past.
Interestingly, the decision to shift priority from the men's hockey came on a day when India was looking for a turnaround and made it to the semi-finals of the ongoing 16th Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament in Malaysia.
India will be hosting the hockey World Cup besides the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and Gurbux said that the government's decision could affect India's chances in both the tournaments at home.
The former players want the government to review the decision and support in taking the sport back to its glorious days.