Sports Minister M S Gill urged India's [ Images ] striking hockey players to join the World Cup preparatory camp in Pune, promising them a "fair deal" after the completion of next month's mega event in Delhi [ Images ].
After a breakdown in talks between the administrators and players, who are staying away from the camp in protest against non-payment of their 2009 dues, Gill asked the players to return to training immediately.
"In this situation, I am of the view that an immediate long-term solution is not possible. The duty of all players is to continue training and be ready to play the first match of the World Cup on February 28 against Pakistan," read a statement from Gill.
"The new hockey stadium, which I inspected today, will be the best hockey stadium in the world. The players must train, and put in their best, and I expect good results," added the sports minister.
"After the tournament, the Ministry of Sports will be in dialogue with the new-elected management of Hockey India to find satisfactory solutions to all issues raised by the players," he promised.
"I wish to appeal to the players to immediately join training and continue so with full heart till the tournament and focus to win it.
"I am clear that after the tournament I will do everything possible to give the players a fair deal," he added.
The players spurned Hockey India's offer of Rs 25,000 per player and stormed out of Tuesday's negotiations in Pune. The federation reacted by threatening to field a 'B' team if the players don't rejoin the camp in the next 48 hours.
The players want written assurances even though Hockey India president A K Mattoo insists that being an ad-hoc committee, his body, which goes to the polls on February 7, cannot commit for the future.
Gill too was of the view that a long-term solution is not possible right now.
"Since the elected Indian Hockey Federation was removed last year, the new Hockey India is in the process of being formed. The current committee is of an ad-hoc nature. The election process for Hockey India, under the guidance of the Ministry's observer and the FIH is in process, and will be completed on the February 7 when a regular management, with a regular tenure, will assume responsibility," he explained.
Meanwhile, leading cement manufacturer Shree Cement said it is willing to provide financial support so that players can resume training.
"We have read reports that players are demanding certain amount of money while the association is willing to pay only a certain amount. I would like to say that our company is willing to pay the difference so that players can resume their training," Shree Cement Managing Director H M Bangur said.
Terming the current crisis as a "national disgrace", he said: "It is not only for the love of the game, but also for our pride. Hockey is our national game and one can't imagine a hockey World Cup held in India without our country playing in it because we cannot pay our players."