Chandigarh: Punjab government on Wednesday announced a cash reward of Rs 25 lakh to the Indian hockey team, barely hours after the players rejected Hockey India's Rs 25,000 cash award for winning the Asian Champions Trophy.

Punjab's Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal congratulated the "national heroes for bringing this rare honour to a nation starved of sporting glory".

"We are indeed very proud of our boys who toiled day and night to win back glory in hockey, the traditional Indian sport. I am all the more proud because seven members of the champion team (including captain Rajpal Singh) belong to Punjab," Badal, who is also President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, said here.

Badal, who also holds the sports portfolio in the Punjab government, also lashed out at the union government for "ridiculing and humiliating the hockey heroes".

"If the Centre did not know how to honour the national heroes who turned back formidable challenges in the international arena, the least it could have done was to just let the boys go home without insulting them. We will take care of them. They are our heroes and they are heroes to the entire nation," said Badal.

The hockey team on Wednesday rejected Hockey India's cash reward, saying the paltry amount of Rs 25000 each was not proper recognition of their achievement.

He also said that the Punjab government has taken concrete steps to boost this national sport.

"We have set up seven new hockey stadium in the state.  We organised a four-nation hockey tournament in which the major hockey powers took part. We propose to take it further from there and organise another international hockey tournament," he said.

(Agencies)