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Indian Hockey: Is the game still alive?

Modified 16 Sep 2012, 17:29 IST

Indian Field Hockey Men’s team has won 8 Olympics gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals. India won its first gold medal in the year 1928 and was undefeated till 1956 where they won their sixth consecutive Gold medal in Olympics. It was a period dominated by Indian greats like Dhayanchan, Captain Roop Singh and Pargat Singh. Indian hockey was the only game at that time which gave India international fame in sports arena.

The Golden era of Indian Hockey fetched it the title of “National Sports” but that era ended in 1980’s Moscow Olympics where India won its final medal (Gold) in Hockey.  And ever since then, popularity in hockey kept on reducing with another sport taking its place, Cricket.

Indian Hockey Team haven’t made big in the Hockey World Cups. Ever since the first World Cup was played in 1971, India has won the title only once (1975) out of the twelve World Cups that have been played so far. It has now been 27 years since India won a medal at the World Cup.

Table 1 shows the number of medals won by India in major Hockey Tournaments over the years.

Recent Performance:

The dry spell continued with Indian Hockey Team failing to make it to the final twelve in Beijing Olympics (2008) and this was the first time that the Indian Hockey team had not qualified for Olympics since 1928.

The poor show continued even in the London Olympics 2012, where the team lost six successive games and ended in the twelfth position, reflecting lack of preparedness of Indian team for the Olympics. The lackluster performance raised several questions in our minds – whether it was as a result of lack of preparedness or mental fragility – but this question remains unanswered.

With the Sports Ministry making it clear in an RTI reply that it has not declared any sport as the National Game, hockey lost its title of “National Game” of India and thus started its period of oblivion.

Plight of Hockey:


There have been several reasons contributing to this current situation of Indian hockey.

Shortage of funds has always been an issue confronting the Indian Hockey, even in 1936 they faced such problem but it was due to the efforts of leaders like Jagdish Prasad and Naval Tata that Indian Hockey team made it to the Olympics that year. After Naval Tata, his successor Ashwini arranged funds by selling his ancestral property but the situation got worse once he quit.

The 1970s brought another problem for the Indian team, it was the year when synthetic turf was introduced in international sports and this had immense affect on their performance as such turfs came to India only six years later.

This was the period when youngsters lost their interest in the sport and shifted their attention to cricket; thus hockey started losing its fan base and it slowly became a sport played by few and as such affected the talent pool available.

The investors also diverted their attention to the more popular sport cricket which in the coming years eclipsed all the major sports that were played in India. The IHF failed to provide full time job and the required incentives to the players and this had an impact on the players who were dependent on the game for their livelihood.


The situation is further aggravated by the step motherly treatment by the Government. When Indian Hockey team won the Asian Championship after defeating their arch rivals Pakistan each player was offered a sum of Rs. 25,000 for winning the tournament for the country; on the contrary, when Indian Cricket team won the 2011 World Cup each player was offered crores of rupees by the Government of different states apart from the Federation (BCCI- Board of Control for Cricket in India) awarding the already cash rich game. Such treatment discourages the budding talent from opting for hockey and other such sports in the interest of money and fame offered by Cricket.

Management of Hockey:

The governing body of field hockey, Hockey India, was formed after the Indian Hockey Federation was dismissed in 2008 by IOC. Hockey India was formed as otherwise in the absence of a governing body in hockey, India would not have been able to host the 2010 Men’s Hockey World Cup to be held in Delhi. But Hockey India has faced issues as a result of difference of opinion between the various State bodies and the International Hockey Federation (FIH).

The tussle between the two warring federations IHF and HI has always taken the centre stage with minimum focus on the performance of the national team.

Even the World Series Hockey, promoted jointly by IHF (Indian Hockey Federation) and Nimbus Sports, launched in line with the Indian Premier League faced stiff opposition from Hockey India (HI) and FIH (International Hockey Federation) which warned all the players to stay away from the league or face sanctions from international competitions. This resulted in India’s top 12 players, including skipper Bharat Chettri, Tushar Khandekar, Yuvraj Walmiki, Sandeep Singh and Sardar Singh withdrawing from the high-profile league.

Road Ahead:

It is natural that it will take some time for the trust to come back to the sport and the focus has to shift at the school level where new talent can be trained and harnessed. Indian hockey is withering off but a few seasons of good monsoon can get the life back to the ailing sport.


State and the Central Government should provide financial support and incentives to the players, motivate youngsters to choose a career not only in hockey but also other sports as well and provide them with a reason to think beyond the cash rich sport-cricket.

Instead of pandering to egos for the betterment of the national team, the two warring federations should sign for peace and work together to get the Indian hockey team back on track and regain the past glory.

Table 1: Medals won by India in major hockey tournaments






Last Medal Won







World Cup






Asian Games






Asia Cup






Champions Trophy






Commonwealth Games







Published 16 Sep 2012, 00:42 IST
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