Had his eye not suffered a freak injury, Baljit Singh would have been under the Indian goal at the hockey World Cup, but now the custodian does not even have a ticket to see his team-mates play in the mega-event commencing Sunday in New Delhi [ Images ].
"Till the last year I was India's [ Images ] No 1 goalkeeper. I would have been in the team if all was well. So although I am not playing, I want to be in the stadium with my team-mates but I don't have any pass," Baljit told PTI from Chandigarh.
"I couldn't reach Hockey India officials but I asked the coaches about the passes and they said that I have to buy the tickets. They (coaches) said they themselves have no passes for their family," Baljit lamented.
"It's not good at all. If a coach gets this sort of treatment what more can you expect? I was a member of the team. If I have to buy tickets to cheer for my team-mates then I prefer to watch it sitting at home. I am feeling very hurt. At least they could do have kept my sentiments in mind," he added.
Baljit also said that with such kind of treatment, the HI officials have proved that he is a forgotten chapter of Indian hockey.
"A player, who almost lost his eyesight for country's cause deserves to get an invitation from the federation. I would have felt I am a part of the team. You feel good when you are treated well but it hurts a lot to see people forget you," he said.
Earlier, some former Olympians also had complained about non-availability of tickets for the 12-team tournament to be held at the Major Dhyanchand National Stadium.
Even though he is not part of the side, Baljit has some words of advice for his team-mates, who start their campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on Sunday.
"Very lucky people get the chance to play a big event like the World Cup before their countrymen and I hope they won't let down the hockey fans of India. The first match is very important for us because we have a tendency to lose the first match.
"I know emotions would run high against Pakistan but I guess it will work in our favour," said Baljit, who was part of the Indian team that won the 2007 Asia Cup in Chennai.
Asked about what would be his advice to India's present custodian Adrian D'souza, who is expected to have a tough outing against renowned Pakistani drag-flicker Sohail Abbas, Baljit said, "I wanted to play this match but I guess I was not destined to be.
"Adrian is a very experienced goalkeeper. He knows Sohail very well, so I am certain that he would do well in the match. I wish him all the luck for the match."
Baljit was also critical about the media ban imposed on the team's training sessions on the pretext of security and said the move was not in the best interest of the game as well as the players.
"It is really sad to see that the World Cup is not getting enough promotion. The media were being stopped from covering the team's practise which is not wise.
"If you want to popularise the game, bring the players before the media, bring them to the forefront, then only the game will be promoted, then only hockey can be revived," said the 28-year-old, who last played for India in the Punjab [ Images ] Gold Cup where they finished runner-up to the Netherlands.
Baljit said although his future is uncertain he has not lost hopes of donning India colours again and requested Union Sports Minister MS Gill to help him in his rehabilitation process.
"I met Mr Gill on January 6 and he said the government has already spent a lot on my treatment and can't afford anymore. I have to undergo another surgery as advised by the doctors in USA and I told the minister that I don't have any problems in undergoing the operation in India.
"But the ministry should make the things clear before me. It's not possible for me to come to Delhi twice a week for my treatment because I don't have any accommodation here and neither can I afford the expenses," Baljit said.
"I want to play for India again and my request to the Sports Minister is that he should think about my rehabilitation," he added.