An oasis in the drought-prone area of Anantapur has witnessed a sea of change after founding Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) in the early 2000s, a sport for development initiative by Rural Development Trust, Andhra Pradesh benefiting around 8500 children and youth through hockey, cricket, football, judo, tennis and softball.
Fr. Vincent Ferrer (FVF) Grassroots Hockey League, a five-month-long hockey festival flagged-off in October 2017 and finished in February 2018.
It aimed at reaching out to newer hockey talents in the district and provide them with a platform to showcase their talents.
The matches were held at various district government schools. The hockey matches had a healthy participation by the audience, who cheered from the sidelines.
In this journey of creating a hockey culture among the rural youth in Anantapur, One Million Hockey Legs (OMHL), an initiative by the Dutch hockey legend, Floris Bovelander and Stick For India, by Spanish national players Santi Freixa Escude and Andreu Enrich have played a key role in supporting ASA through their yearly camps and providing technical knowledge of the game.
As a part of this collaboration, a month-long coaching camp was conducted by OMHL coaches in early January.
Apart from coaching players, they also conducted a hockey clinic for 15 coaches of the ASA hockey program at Anantapur Sports Village. Seeing the positive work done at the grassroots, in early January 2018, Decathlon India pitched in to donate 240 hockey sticks to 21 odd hockey grassroots centres of ASA Hockey program.
The hockey league at the grassroots have been helpful in finding hockey talent, for instance, the 2017-18 season witnessed hockey player M Bhavani from ASA hockey program sealing a spot in National Hockey Academy, Delhi and three others at Sports Authority of India (SAI), Bhopal.
The girls had started playing at the grassroots and through their constant hard-work reached higher levels of the game.
It is great to see such hockey talents emerging out of rural India and positive contribution by ASA, OMHL, Stick for India helping India produce hockey wizards.
Slowly, but steadily the importance of hockey among other sports has catapulted to become a revolution at the grassroots in Andhra Pradesh.