Indian hockey plunged into a fresh crisis on Friday with revolting hockey players deciding to boycott the ongoing World Cup preparatory camp in Pune for an indefinite period in protest against non-payment of their dues.
The players took the unprecedented step to stay away from the camp after Hockey India, the interim body governing the game in the country, failed to respond to two of their letters asking the authorities to make the payments.
"We have decided to boycott the camp indefinitely till we are paid our money. We took such a decision in a meeting of players last night," captain Rajpal Singh said.
"Earlier we used to be paid after every tournament but it is not the case now. We had reminded the HI officials a few times, but nothing has been done. We will now report to the camp only after we are paid," Rajpal said.
The players' revolt comes barely a month before the hockey World Cup in New Delhi and is bound to have a bearing on the preparations for the high-profile event, scheduled from February 28 to March 13.
The senior players were annoyed by the delay in payment and had written a letter to Hockey India president A K Mattoo demanding that the money be paid within seven days.
The letter had no mention about the pull-out but sources said the players had actually made up their minds to withdraw from the camp if the payment is not made in a week's time.
Hockey India (HI) is, however, confident of sorting out the issue and has called some of the senior players for a meeting in New Delhi on Saturday.
Six senior players -- captain Rajpal Singh, Sardara Singh, Prabhjot Singh, Sandeep Singh, Tushar Khandekar and Arjun Halappa -- will be in Delhi on Saturday for a promotional shoot and are expected to meet HI officals to sort out the payment issue.
"I had received their letter two days back. I have mailed my response to them yesterday. I have called them for a meeting when the players come to Delhi tomorrow," Mattoo said.
"I will talk to them and look into the matter to understand what exactly their grievances are. I am confident that we will sort out the problem soon," he said.
Although the players claimed that they had given Hockey India time till January 8 to resolve the issue, Mattoo said no such deadline was given to them.
"There was no mention of the deadline in the letter. Above all, they are the national hockey players. They should not have threatened us. They can't keep the dagger on my head to make me work. But we are confident about working out a solution when we talk to them," Mattoo said.
The players said that on the previous occasions they were paid in advance but this time the fees have not been paid even after the conclusion of the tournament.
"We would like to be paid our money for Champions Challenge in Argentina. In the previous three years we were paid Rs 25,000 each for every tournaments before we left India. We would like to be paid this time too and as for the future tournaments, please make arrangements to pay well in advance," the players had said in the letter.
India won the bronze medal in the tournament, held in Salta, Argentina last month.
Rajpal said the players were forced to take such a step because Hockey India "did not care for them".
"Hockey India does not care for the players; it is very sad. The sponsors are paying the money, but the players don't get anything," he added.
Apart from their dues, the players are also demanding an increase in their pay packages and some incentives.