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Fact check: Were the Bengal U19 Hockey team really rebuked by their coach into shaving heads?

Fact check: Were the Bengal U19 Hockey team really rebuked by their coach into shaving heads?

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Published: 22 Jan 2019 10:35 AM GMT
Early Tuesday morning, news emerged that the U19 Bengal Hockey team had allegedly been rebuked into shaving off their heads after a loss in a National level tournament. Reports suggested that the coach travelling with the team, Anand Kumar, had threatened to have their head tonsured at half-time during their game against Namdhari XI if they lost. A lot of furore has been raised over the mistreatment of age-group players at the grassroot level with many calling for the immediate sacking of the coach for such behaviour. Local TV channels expressed outrage and the Bengal Hockey Association immediately called for a three-member enquiry committee to further investigate the matter in the face of the ensuing outrage. The coach, Mr Anand Kumar has been directed to appear before the committee later today in an attempt to get to the bottom of the matter.
The Bridge
reached out to Mr Anand Kumar and a member of the U19 team in question to understand what prompted the controversy. "As a coach, my job is to motivate players," clarified Kumar. "And sometimes, you need to scold them as well within limits so they take things seriously and learn." The U19 team had begun their Nationals campaign on a decent note. With a 4-0 win against Gujarat in the first match and a 9-1 victory over Andhra in the second, expectations were running high in the team. It was during the Quarterfinal match vs Namdhari that the incident occured. "We were trailing 3-0 in the first half in that match," recalls Kumar. "It was frustrating to watch the way they were playing because our team was much better than the opposition." "So, I told them that if they did not improve in the second half and said I will have their head tonsured. In the next quarter, they even scored a goal. And eventually, we lost the match 1-5." Kumar says that there had been no mention of anyone shaving their heads post this particular outburst at half-time. In fact, it was only yesterday that most of the people involved with the incident even found out that this controversy was brewing in the State's Hockey circuit. "
Kis baat pe mudda uthaya ja raha hai, nahi samajh me aa raha
hai. Two days after we dropped the team at Howrah station, we come to know there is a problem." "I spoke to a team member after this news started coming out," Anand added. "He told me that the team felt guilty of letting me down and letting Bengal down so they took this collective decision to shave their heads." "We actually should have scored 10 goals vs Namdhari," he rues. "The only time anything close to head-shaving was mentioned was then. It happened on 16th and an issue was created out of this on 20th." We spoke to one of the members of this team who was also among those who shaved off his head. He largely corroborated Anand Kumar's story.
"When we returned to the match, we felt really guilty that we had let down Bengal," said Sheik Faizan- a forward in the team in question. "All of us decided then and there that we deserved some punishment so that we work harder in future and not lose such easy matches," he added. On being asked why the incident is being painted in an entirely controversial manner in the mainstream media, both Kumar and Faizan had just one thing to say. "Politics. Hume raajneeti se koi matlab nahi hai. Other people with vested interests have brainwashed a senior member in the team to give a negative colour to this whole thing" Kumar said. "We had no idea our actions would be taken this way and such a tamasha made out of it," Faizan concluded. The enquiry committee is yet to meet the coach and repurcussions if any are remained to be seen. If Anand Kumar and Faizan's accounts of the incidents are to be believed, a mountain has been created out of a molehill.
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