A rant about historical callousness.

I came across the article below, which was initially published in the Indian newspaper Firstpost, on the fieldhockey.com website on the 14th December 2008. It is a rant, and as such, it is repetitive and overlong – and it therefore reminds me of some of my own writing about the Rules of Hockey. Certainly, some of the phrases used struck a chord, those contained in the first and last sentences for example. I think there is overuse of the words ‘callous’ and ‘callousness’, other words could have been used more effectively on occasion, and the message is clear before the writer has written half of what he did, but there is no doubt about the indignation and passion felt.

I can at least break up some of my own ramblings with pictures and video examples to illustrate the points being made; even if very few readers interrupt their reading of an article to view a video (and very few people who browse YouTube videos link to articles when videos are produced just to illustrate them, which is often the case).

So here we go:-

When, just when, will the International Hockey Federation (FIH) stop peddling false information to the world at large!

The official tournament programme of the ongoing men’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar is an illustration of the callous and distasteful level of indifference toward the game’s history.

India’s wins against Germany in the previous editions are not reflected in statistics published by in the programme for 2018 World Cup.

India’s wins against Germany in the previous editions are not reflected in statistics published in the official programme of the 2018 World Cup. (I assume that repettition is deliberate)

For a moment, forget what the FIH and its affiliated national associations across the world have done over the years in trashing the game’s history, the World Cup would still seem to be an elite event whose records remain sacrosanct.

Err sorry, think again.

And, please think yet again if you consider the FIH and its affiliated units as custodians of hockey’s legacy. (Perhaps a reference to the Hockey Museam?)

Even in disseminating the records of the elite World Cup tournament of the past—just 13 tournaments since the inaugural edition in 1971 —they seem to prefer fiction to fact.

“Don’t tell me they want to pass them off as official records, these guys should be fiction writers,” screamed a former Indian player who had featured in four early World Cups and even won a gold medal in 1975.

Drawing the attention of The Hockey Insider to the disinformation being passed around with FIH “Stats” as the label, the ex-Indian striker was aghast after a simple glance at India’s head-to-head World Cup records.

‘They’ve simply scratched out the victories we carved out,” said the former Indian striker who noticed something amiss when two games where he had played a role in the Indian victories over Germany did not figure in the FIH statistics published by the Official Programme of the 2018 World Cup titled “Stars Become Legends” and carrying images of lndian players Manpreet Singh and PR Sreejesh on the cover.

The startling missing facts that prompted the ex-Indian World Cup player to call Firstpost would stare any Indian hockey follower in the face. India had an unbeaten record against Germany, who played as West Germany until the 1990 edition, in the initial three World Cups: two victories and a draw.

India won 1-0 in Barcelona in 1971; drew 0-0 against the then Olympic champions at Amsterdam in 1973 and outplayed them 3-1 in 1975 at Kuala Lumpur. The India-Germany encounters at Kuala Lumpur were the stuff that lingers on in the memory of sports fans. India were leading 1-0 in their preliminary group encounter when rain disrupted the match.

Given the practice in the rain-affected 1975 World Cup —where a match was even shifted to another ground at half-time —this game was supposed to resume from that stage. But the FIH decided to replay the encounter afresh, brushing aside India’s protests. In the replayed match, which India needed to win to advance to the semi-finals, the Ajitpal Singh-led Indian team turned the form book upside down yet again to defeat the Olympic champions 3-1.

The 1978 edition in Buenos Aires saw the Germans hammer India 7-0 with the two nations playing out a 2-2 draw in London 1986.

Imagine, these matches are not part of the statistics that show just three India-Germany matches with all three confirmed as German victories. History is often misinterpreted by people wanting to twist it to their liking, but here is a case of sheer callousness.

It is not as if the FIH is an organisation incapable of actually dishing out the correct information. But, it seems, callousness about the game’s history has assumed such drastic dimensions in the FIH that they do not care about momentous events even the other day.

Thousands of matches are missing from the FIH data, simply because it seems the federation could not be bothered to look up the records or conduct research. The FIH wants the hockey fraternity to forget memorable matches and just have a tunnel vision that looks just at the elite events.

Those propounding great theories about legacy may one day find time between their coffee breaks to look up the game’s history. History, most often, is not confined to elite events. But then, the World Cup is one of hockey’s few elite competitions and here too a star player of yesteryears had to scream to draw attention to the callous mistakes.

Just scratch your memories for international matches you have seen or read about. The chances are they will not be there in the FlH’s “glorious” collection of records. Over the past two years, it has been highlighted by the hockey fraternity of South Asia that a majority of encounters that are part of the game’s epic rivalry between India and Pakistan are missing from the FIH records.

The FIH, however, does not seem to have the time and inclination to even look into the mess it has created by recognising some matches and de-recognising the others.

A few years ago, the FIH actually tried to give some semblance of sanity to the historical data that they circulate to the world.

Since then, the media and the FIH television partners are fed historical data that, politely said, is a joke. And this data is being circulated along with the television pictures.

It seems the hockey mandarins are very busy trying to sell misinformation.

Firstpost.

My own rants include articles about the statement by the Hockey Rules Board, in the Preface to the 1997 Rules, under Rule Changes, that following the deletion of the off-side Rule, “measures would be put in place to constrain potentially dangerous actions by attacking forwards close to the goal“. These ‘measures’ did not materialise in 1998 (Why not?) and were never again referred to (Why not?). In fact the opposite has happened attackers are allowed to hit a ball from any height, including from above head height, up into the goal from any distance within the circle and any evasive action taken by defenders, far from being a signal for penalty for dangerous play by an attacker, is just ignored.

What did appear in the 1998 Rules Preface was a statement that all existing Interpretations had been incorporated into the (sic) current rule-book, including those which up until that point had been produced exclusively for FIH Umpire briefings at FIH Tournaments, and that therefore no further such documents were necessary (so presumably the publication of such documents would cease?). The current reality is that the content of the still published UMB is now regarded as superior to what is given as Rule and Interpretation (Explanation of Application) in the rule-book and there is much unnecessary contradiction between the two, which creates ambiguities; it seems the hockey mandarins are very busy trying to ‘sell’ misinformation.

In 2001, at the behest of the HRB, the FIH Executive sent a Circular to all National Hockey Associations, which declared and instructed that no person and nobody, other than the HRB could compose or amend a Rule or an Interpretation. That didn’t stop the flow of unofficial ‘interpretation’, it increased dramatically after 2004, and in 2007 that instruction was sunk without trace when the HRB deleted ‘gains benefit’ from the ball body contact Rule. A Senior Umpire Manager had a chat with a few of his friends and ‘over-ruled’ the HRB on that deletion: so “gains benefit” was applied for the following eight-year period when it was not contained in the wording of the Rule Proper or in what was called the Explanations (of Application) after 2004 – so it was not Rule. “Or gains an advantage” (a pre “benefit” wording) was restored to the rule-book in 2016, but activated in May 2015 via an Executive Circular (an amendment which the UM’s did not disregard but which umpires now seldom apply correctly, often not even considering it at all before penalising a ball-body contact – I have written that a few hundred times in the past twenty years – umpires refused to let go of “gains benefit” but at the same time did not apply it appropriately or even in some cases, at all – especially when there wasn’t any benifit gained – and that is still the case).

During this same period, very sensible advice to umpires, which was introduced in 2002 and concerned what to watch for when applying the Obstruction Rule, for example:- “standing still and shielding the ball when under pressure” and advice about a player who was dragging the ball along a line while shielding it behind his legs and feet, among others, just disappeared during the ‘wholesale vandalism’ of the rule-book in 2004, which was presented as “simplification and clarification”.The above list is by no means a comprehensive one but the FIH present a picture of highly competent and consistent umpiring that they are very happy with and which all players respect.
The outrage of the Indian Team at the umpiring of an incident in the quarter-final match of the 2018 World Cup between the Netherlands and India which resulted in a ten-minute suspension for an Indian player at a critical time of a match, which India lost 1-0, is based on an incident which does not exist. The problem with ‘Records’ is that a 7-0 drubbing is recorded in exactly the same way as a 2-1 loss, which the losing side ascribe to poor umpiring. The FIH produced video highlights of the match do not show any such incident. I have no opinion concerning it as I have not seen it. When just when, will the International Hockey Federation (FIH) stop peddling false information to the world at large!

What is amazing to me is that players rise above the incompetence of Rule makers, the indifference to the Rules of the game and the poor display of Rule application by officials, which is the result of the FIH’s casual approach to Rule writing and to conflicted umpire coaching: some of the hockey played during the 2018 World Cup was incredibly good. 

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