Ritu Rani’s career is being torn apart by Hockey India (HI) limb from limb. First, it was her removal from her position, followed by her captain’s armband, and to top it off, they removed her from the team altogether.
It was on 6 July that the Sports Authority of India told her to feel free to leave whenever she wanted. She is not part of the team set out to represent India in the Olympics, and Ritu Rani believes that it wasn’t her performance but her personal life that led to her exclusion.
The manner of her exclusion has led her to believe that HI does not treat male and female athletes equally. Ritu Rani was quoted by the Times of India, “The difference in the way Sardar and I have been treated is an indication that they feel differently about women players. One senior player was protected, while the other is humiliated.”
A British-Asian hockey player, who claims to be Sardar Singh’s fiancé, accused Singh of rape earlier this year. Despite this, with HI’s backing, Sardar will be representing India in the Olympics. There have been other instances in which Sardar Singh has broken the code of conduct. In one instance, he and Sandeep Singh drifted out of the national camp and were charged with a 2-year ban. All it took was an apology to convince the patriarchal management of HI to get them reinstated.
“Fitness and attitude” is the official reason behind HI’s decision to drop Ritu Rani, however, it appears to be a euphemism. Particularly, it seems too heavy-handed to assume that her engagement to singer and disc jockey Harsh Sharma on June 12 and her expulsion from the band of Olympians are isolated events. In fact, this decision of hers was labeled as a distraction earlier this month.
Ritu Rani captained the side that managed to book a place at the Olympics for the first time since 1980 and her on-field performance was a large contributor to India’s success in the qualifying events. The 24-year-old halfback led her team to notable performances and medals, including the bronze at the 2014 Asian Games.
"As much as I love the sport, I don't know if I have it in me to pick up the stick again," said a tearful Ritu. "The Olympic dream was all that I had. Now I don't know if I'll play again." Ritu Rani has dedicated her life to the sport and to her country, the least she deserves is equal treatment from the sports bodies.