Hope for hockey?
Organising a part of the first national hockey league championship at Gachibowli, would give a boost to the sport, writes ABHIJIT SEN GUPTA
The men behind the National league (L to R): Richard Young (ESPN), K. Jothikumaran (Secretary IHF) and S.S. Dasgupta (Leisure Sports Management) Photo: K. Gajendran
THE PLAN of the Indian Hockey Federation to conduct a part of the first national hockey league championship at the hockey complex in Gachibowli in Hyderabad is likely to be welcomed by fans of the sport. The concept of starting the national league, which is to be known as the Premier Hockey League may give a further boost to the sport, which is making a come back into the hearts and minds of Indian fans after a long period of neglect, disenchantment and diminishing popularity.
The important thing will be to sustain the momentum and interest over a long period of time. While there have been signs of resurgence in Indian hockey, it would be hasty to assume that all the hurdles have been surmounted and all the ills which plagued the sport have been purged. The future of the national league will depend upon the ability of the hockey fraternity to stay focussed and pursue its objectives with careful planning and sustained effort.
According to K. Jothikumaran, Secretary of the Indian Hockey Federation, the plan is to divide the tournament into two tiers and the Tier I matches which are of greater significance will be played at the hockey complex in Gachibowli. Going by the plans unveiled by Jothikumaran recently in Hyderabad, the teams will represent various cities. The players, however, may not necessarily be from the city that they are representing since some cities may not be able to field a strong team on its own.
The whole idea is to enhance the level of competition and ensure an equal spread of the available talent within the country. The involvement of foreign players with a maximum limit of five per team will also give the competition a unique element.
From the purely local angle, one must ask, what will this do for Hyderabad and the hockey standards prevailing here. This region has produced just a few internationals and perhaps Mukesh Kumar is the only player from Hyderabad who has really made a mark at the international level.
In contrast there are some regions in India which have had a long tradition of producing talented hockey players such as Jharkhand from where several Olympians have emerged and the village of Sansarpur in Punjab has become well known in hockey circles for having produced 14 Olympians.
Hyderabad has an impressive array of facilities for several sports including hockey. Moreover the PHL will be covered live by ESPN, which will use multiple cameras and the latest methods to capture the finer nuances of the game. Richard Young of ESPN is full of enthusiasm about the scheme and feels that the coverage will set new standards for television coverage of domestic sports in India. But will the conduct of important tournaments such as the PHL and the resulting media exposure make the sport more popular and attract more youngsters into the game?
P. Kanthaiah, Secretary of the Hyderabad Hockey Association is optimistic that it will. "Conducting the tournament will help us in many ways," he says "For one thing, it will give the youngsters a golden opportunity to watch the best players at close quarters and learn from them. There are likely to be top class foreign players in action right here in Hyderabad. Budding players from schools and colleges will be able to watch them and beinspired by them," he feels. "We may get more influx into the game thanks to these matches."
He also says that the distance from the city centre to Gachibowli may not be a major hurdle for those wishing to see the matches at the venue. The association plans to request the APSRTC to arrange for special buses to transport spectators to and from the venue on all match days. The matches will be played only on weekends and if transportation is arranged, it will help interested viewers to go to the venue and return to the city without any difficulty.
"We hope educational institutions will respond in a positive manner and send their children to watch the matches. After all, some of the best players in India and perhaps in the world will be playing in these matches. After seeing these players, children may realise that only hard work and determination can work wonders," says Kanthaiah.
Send this article to Friends by