After the Beijing Olympics in 2008 the Chinese media came up with an article about Sports in India. It read, “So strange for a country reaching close to 1.2 billion to manage just a handful of winners when their neighbours draw a stark contrast by climbing to the No 1 spot.”
This is the condition of Indian Sports in general. Our national game ‘Hockey’ is no exception. After six consecutive Olympic Gold medals from 1928-1956 taking its overall tally to 8, India undoubtedly was the most successful hockey team in Olympic history. This dream run ended in the 1970’s when the FIH (International Hockey Federation) introduced astro-turfs or the synthetic grass. Presently, India is performing dismally with its current ranking sinking to 10th spot, the lowest ever.
The downtrend of hockey in India officially started in 1982-83 when Pakistan packed a punch by beating India 7-1 in front of a capacity crowd in Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in New Delhi. The match, which was an Asian Games final, was watched by the late Indira Gandhi herself. But this loss received considerable criticism and humiliation, most it was particularly aimed at Mir Ranjan Negi, the goal keeper of the Indian team. In an interview after the horrifying loss, he said, “Everywhere I went, I was abused by the public.” In those times, the game was deeply etched within the Indian culture and the loss, hurt the fans more than anything else. And then the following year, an underdog Indian cricket team won the world cup. This was the beginning of shift of focus away from the National game.
The movie, Chak de India (2007), was made highlighting the same case. It saw large crowds throng the cinema halls across the country and the movie was qualified to be amongst the best. People were found to associate themselves so much with the game that they dearly looked to see a surge in the Indian hockey. It was thought at that time that this game may well be brought back with a possible increase in their determination to achieve success. But we forgot that it’s the administration which had to play a pivotal role in reviving the game. Rather, what we saw was a further deepening of crisis, when in 2008, K. Jothikumaran, the secretary of IHF was caught red handed in a sting operation taking a bribery of Rs.25 lakhs. Following this event, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) disbanded IHF and with it, ended K.P.S Gill’s 14 year reign which saw Indian Hockey reach it’s nadir.
Although the situation seemes hopeless, we still have managed to remain reasonably competitive even in losing causes against powerhouses like Australia, Holland, Germany. For a national game to receive its due respect in international circles, what we need foremost is a stable and functional administration.
Evidently there is vast scope of improvement for the development of Indian Hockey and if the following identified areas – infrastructure, administration, sport promotion, nurturing talent, incentives, training facilities, sports management and media coverage – are diligently worked upon, we can perhaps see the game regain its lost glory.
In certain parts of the country the game is still widely played and followed. Some of these are Sansarpur Village in Punjab which has produced 14 Olympians and 100 National players, Sundargarh in Orissa, Khadki city in Maharashtra, Rajnandgaon district in Chattisgarh, Coorg in Karnataka, and a few others. A focus on the creation of good infrastructure and on other identified areas, as mentioned above, can help India gradually improve and possibly dominate the game as in the 1970s.
Indian Hockey team’s fantastic performance in the Olympic qualifiers and their qualification for the 2012 London Olympics has meant that it has brought back a lot more enthusiasm amongst the Indian masses and the young children. This is the right indication for the sport and a good showing in Olympics, especially with the likes of Sandeep Singh, can bring back the good times to Indian Hockey.
- Varun Kappal
2 time National Championships Gold Medalist, Haryana State Roller Hockey Team
2 time University Championships Gold Medalist, Manipal Institute of Technology Field Hockey Team
2nd year student, MBA in Rural Management, Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar
You may also like