New Delhi: It could be the outrage of insulted champions. Or then Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal's neat political point. By Wednesday evening, the Centre was in full damage control mode, assuring the national hockey team that each player would in fact get Rs 1.5 lakh for winning the Asian Champions Trophy.
Sports Minister Ajay Maken said this was de rigueur - that the champs would have got this money anyway under a government rewards scheme. That the Centre just did not see reason to make a song and dance about the cash award since it was public knowledge anyway. He was also at pains to point out that the paltry sum of Rs 25,000 that was offered to the players last evening was Hockey India's doing. Not the Centre's.
"Rd 25000 cash award was not announced by Govt but by the Hockey India. Govt. spends all the money on training, coaching & foreign exposure," Mr Maken posted on his Twitter account.
"Govt. spent 7.81cr on Hockey Team in last 6 months alone! 5.97cr- National Coaching camps,1.75cr Foreign Visits,8.75 lakh on foreign experts," he tweeted two hours later.
The players had rejected Hockey India's cash reward outright as being too small for their achievement: The team has just returned home after defeating Pakistan to lift the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy held in China.