Last week, the Indian men’s hockey team created history by defeating Germany in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, bringing India a long-awaited bronze medal. Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, 33, of Kerala, was recognized for his skill during the team’s matches, but the Kerala government’s tardiness in recognizing his accomplishments has not gone ignored.
While Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan issued a statement in support of Sreejesh, the government has yet to declare a prize for him. The government came under fire after Neeraj Chopra, who won India’s solitary gold medal of the games in the men’s javelin throw, was granted Rs 6 crore as a monetary reward by the Haryana government. Other Olympians have also been honoured by their home governments: Vivek Sagar and Nilkanta Sharma, both members of the men’s hockey team, were awarded Rs 1 crore by the Madhya Pradesh government, and weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu was awarded Rs 1 crore by the Manipur government, in addition to being appointed as the Additional Superintendent of Police (Sports).
“The allegation that the Kerala government did not reward him is true. Many governments announced only when athletes won medals, even before they returned to the state; in this case, even after Sreejesh returned, the Kerala government has not announced a reward,” retired athlete Anju Bobby George told Mathrubhumti TV.
“It is not difficult to declare a Rs 1 crore award. The government can even collect it through sponsorships. But it is about the intent,” she added. Others, on the other hand, have chosen to announce cash rewards for Sreejesh. A prize of Rs 1 crore was given by Dr Shamseer Vayalil, the chairman and MS of VPS Healthcare, which is based in the UAE.
The Indian hockey squad arrived in New Delhi on Monday from Tokyo, while Sreejesh is scheduled to arrive in Kochi on Tuesday evening. Sports Minister V Abdurahiman, among other authorities, will greet him at the airport.