Indian Men’s Hockey’s star defender Varun Kumar has withdrawn from the FIH Pro League, a crucial and final tournament before the Paris Olympics, as he has been accused of rape under POCSO(Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act. The Punjab player played a crucial role in the Tokyo Olympics where the team clinched the Bronze medal.
Varun was supposed to be a part of the team for the Pro League matches starting Saturday in Odisha but left the group after an FIR was filed against him in Bengaluru last Tuesday. The Arjuna awardee pulled out of the elite nine-team tournament on Wednesday to seek legal options, characterizing it as a calculated attempt to extort money from him.
However, the rape accusations against one of its players, pose a significant distraction to the men’s hockey team. This unforeseen move has left Chief Coach Craig Fulton to chalk out alternative plans.
Craig Fulton responds to Varun Kumar’s case
Craig Fulton addressed the distraction caused by the rape allegation against defender Varun Kumar, stating that his absence from the FIH Pro League will be regarded as an injury setback for the team.
Speaking on the issue on the eve of India’s first match of the competition against Spain, Fulton said, “If you take it from the outside-in, of course, it’s a challenging situation but at the same time, you’ve got a level of professionalism. From a staff point of view, we have to have our plans in place.”
“So, if you took it as an injury, someone now is injured. What would you do? What are the plans in place in the event of an injury? So, Varun is not here. What is the plan? There always is a plan for anyone that gets injured for a long time (be it)striker, midfield or defender.”
“So we’re going on the level of professionalism we have in the group, the values that we hold. It’s a distraction, it’s challenging, it’s not great. But we have to move forward, we have a plan in place on how we go.”
India will be playing against quality sides like pain, Australia, defending champions Netherlands and Ireland in Bhubaneswar between February 10-16 before playing the same teams in Rourkela from February 19-25.
As only 16 players head to Paris, the Coach opined that this will be a wonderful opportunity to assess different players, test combinations, and execute the plans that they have been trying out in the national camp in Bengaluru, in the eight Pro League games, before the mega event in July.
“These are the last series of matches in India ahead of the Olympics. So, this is a good chance for us to try and improve further. We play some good matches here, so we have to see how we utilize this opportunity and how to prepare for the Olympic Games,” the coach said.