New Delhi, May 22 (PTI) Incumbent Narinder Batra of India was on Saturday re-elected as the International Hockey Federation (FIH) President for a second term after beating Marc Coudron of Belgium by a slender margin of just two votes during the world body's virtual 47th Congress.
Considered the favourite from the beginning, Batra, who is also the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, barely managed to pip Coudron, who is the chief of Belgium Hockey Federation and sits on the country's Olympic panel.
Batra secured 63 votes as against his rival's 61 to emerge winner during the online voting process, in which 124 member associations participated.
The incumbent FIH chief, too, admitted that it was a close contest. He said that he will now try to work towards regaining the faith of his colleagues.
'It was a good election, it was a very close contest. Going by the trend of voting, 49 per cent people wanted a change and it is now my duty to interact and understand where they feel I didn't live up to their expectations,' Batra said during a virtual press conference after the election.
'I was never over confident as nobody knows what is going to happen in an election.' The FIH Congress was held virtually due to travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The closeness of the contest can be gauged from the fact that 63 votes were needed by a candidate to secure an absolute majority and Batra just about managed to prevail over his opponent in the battle.
The Indian will hold the office until 2024 as the FIH has reduced the term from four to three years due to deferment of the Congress last year.
The 47th Congress was to be held last year in New Delhi but was postponed because of the pandemic.
Batra became the first non-European president of the FIH in 2016 after he was elected to the top post by an overwhelming margin during the world body's 45th Congress.
The veteran Indian sports administrator, who was the chief of Hockey India then, remains the only Asian to grab the top post in the world body's 92-year-old history.
Asked about the possibility of resumption of India's bilateral series against arch-rivals Pakistan, he said only the two national federations and their respective governments can take a call on that.
He, however, said that being the head of FIH he would do everything in his capacity for the resumption of clashes between the two neighbours.
'This has to be discussed between Hockey India and Pakistan Hockey Federation. It is also a political decision which has to be sorted out between the two governments. This matter is not in FIH's domain,' Batra said.
'India and Pakistan play against each other in FIH events and those matches are crowd-pullers for our game.
'As FIH president I would always like to see matches between India and Pakistan.
These games are the highlights of our game.' The first-ever Hockey 5s will be held in 2023, the bidding for which has already been invited, and the FIH chief said his dream is to witness the introduction of the short format of the game in the Olympics along side the 11-a-side event.
'Hockey 5s is a great concept to promote hockey and increase participation in our game. My dream is to see Hockey 5s in Olympics and we have taken the first step with its introduction in 2018 Youth Olympics (in Argentina),' he said.
Hockey India congratulated Batra on his re-election.
'Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra, in his first term, led the hockey fraternity into a new era with innovative formats and tournaments that would further enhance the popularity of the sport particularly among the younger generation.
'He is a man on a mission to globalise hockey and we congratulate him and wish him the very best as he endeavours to achieve new milestones as President of FIH in his second consecutive term,' HI chief Gyanendro Ningombam said.
Among other developments, Danae Andrada Barrios and Hazel Kennedy were both re-elected to the FIH Executive Board as women's members, while Tayyab Ikram and Erik Cornelissen were re-elected unopposed to the FIH Executive Board as men's members. PTI SSC SSC AH AH