The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has issued a statement surrounding the 2020-21 Hockey Stars Awards after receiving widespread criticism upon announcing the winners.
Gurjit Kaur (Best Player, Women), Harmanpreet Singh (Best Player, Men), Savita (Best Goalkeeper, Women), PR Sreejesh (Best Goalkeeper, Men), Sharmila Devi (Best Rising Star, Women) and Vivek Prasad (Best Rising Star, Men) as well as the coaches of India’s women’s team, Sjoerd Marijne (NED) and India’s men’s team, Graham Reid (AUS) each won their respective categories, making it a clean sweep for India’s nominees.
Votes from national associations – represented by their respective national captains and coaches – counted for 50% of the overall result, while fans and players (25%) and media (25%) made up the other half of the votes.
Of nearly 80 national associations 29 of 33 Asian associations voted whilst a total of just 50 came from the rest of the world. The FIH reports a record number of almost 300,000 fans also voted.
Whilst the governing body took steps to reiterate the legitimacy of the numbers via a series of social media posts, the response from players both past and present – including some of the previous winners of these awards has surely caused them a great deal of concern.
2013 World Player of the Year Tobias Hauke said via Instagram:
“FIH you should think about the system of this as soon as possible. It’s ridiculous and does not help us to make the sport more professional!
Nevertheless- congratulations to all Indian Players – @hockeyIndia you done a great job over the past years- and now bring back the #hockeyindialeague – it is time again!”
Another previous winner of the award and another former Germany international, Mo Furste also added his voice to the debate via Twitter:
“Are you serious??? It honestly takes away a lot of credibility for what this award once was (or felt like)… With all respect to our friends and amazing Indian athletes, ALL awards to players and coaches from one country is absolutely ridiculous!!!”
“@fihockey, showing these breakdowns isn’t helping your cause, and neither is the statement you’ve shared. The integrity of the awards are lost. It is simply impossible for one country to win all awards. Surely you can see that?” added former South Africa international Justin Reid-Ross on Instagram.
“This isn’t about the fantastic achievements of the Indian teams and players, this is about the integrity of our sport, especially at an Olympic level. Time to seriously look in the mirror!”
Whilst the reaction was both understandable and inevitable, some, such as former Great Britain goalkeeper Abi Walker took time to remind us all that this is not the fault of the award-winners, rather the system itself.
In a period where Netherlands (women) and Belgium (men) have been standout teams with standout individuals, it is hard not to feel sympathy for the nominees from those nations. Perhaps in the future the awards could be decided by a panel of former players with a fans’ prize running alongside it?
Whatever the solution, the FIH needs to do a rethink if they want anyone to take these awards seriously in the future.