India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh faces a disciplinary action for playing a celebrity football match in Mumbai last October without Hockey India’s permission.
In a brief statement, Hockey India said ‘a decision on the issue will be taken when its disciplinary committee meets’, without adding when its next meeting is scheduled. Sources said if found guilty of breaching Hockey India’s code of conduct, Sreejesh could be suspended for as long as four months.
Sreejesh, also the captain of the national team, played a ‘Celebrity Clasico’ that featured the country’s sport and movie superstars. During the same period, India were playing the Asia Cup in Dhaka. The 28-year-old was not selected for the tournament because he was nursing an injury he picked up earlier this year.
With the team not here and the camp disbanded, Sreejesh was on a short break home when he was invited for the match. He played for All Heart FC, led by Virat Kohli and featured, among others, MS Dhoni, Rohan Bopanna and Jonty Rhodes.
However, his participation did not go down well with the sport’s governing body. After India returned from Dhaka as Asian champions, Hockey India shot off an email to Sreejesh, demanding an explanation. “Hockey India was surprised to see his pictures on social media since no player is permitted to take part in big events without their prior permission. In this case, they were also unhappy because he is recovering from a serious injury and playing football could have aggravated it,” a source said.
In his reply, Sreejesh is believed to have said he took permission from his personal physio. “Sreejesh explained that the physio gave him the green signal since he was going to play only as a goalkeeper, which won’t involve much running,” the source added. “He also mentioned that since there wasn’t any national camp going on and he was on a break, he did not ask for permission.”
In a statement, Hockey India said: “Hockey India’s Disciplinary Committee hasn’t met recently. A decision on the issue will only be taken once they meet. Till then Hockey India would not want to offer any comments.”
Sreejesh, currently the best goalkeeper in the country, picked up an ACL injury during India’s Azlan Shah Cup match against Australia in May. He underwent a surgery in Mumbai the following month and has been in rehab since. Although he was expected to be fit for the ongoing World League Final, Hockey India chose to give him more rest, keeping in mind a busy schedule in 2018, where India will be playing three major tournaments – the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Cup.