NEW DELHI - India's ice hockey players have resorted to crowdfunding to take part in an international tournament, saying they are struggling to make ends meet in the cricket-mad country.
A crowdfunding website set up by the national team says the sport receives government funding only to attend the Olympics or the Asian Games, and the players don't have the money to travel to Kuwait for next week's International Ice Hockey Federation Challenge Cup.
"It is so tough to push sports like ice hockey when cricket is taking all the limelight and glory," Vedank Singh, the digital marketing head of the Ice Hockey Association of India, told AFP on Wednesday.
"See, we have a national team and we have to beg for money."
Singh, who launched the crowdfunding campaign on Saturday using the Twitter hashtag #SupportIceHockey, said the team did not have even "basic facilities".
But he said the response to the campaign had been "fantastic", yielding the team's first corporate sponsorship deal, with the Mahindra Group.
The head of the $16.5-billion conglomerate, Anand Mahindra, tweeted that he had "decided to support these passionate athletes".
Cricket has long been the national obsession in India, overshadowing all other sports.
Ice hockey is relatively unknown on the sub-continent, although forms of the game have been played for decades in parts of the Himalayas.
India, which has never won a medal at a Winter Olympics, sent just three athletes to compete at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Even successful sportspeople struggle to make a living, while the country's top cricketers can earn millions from playing contracts and brand endorsements.