The ongoing 1st Hockey India Sub-Junior Men's Academy National Championship in Bhopal is the first tournament to be conducted, post the pandemic, for budding hockey players in the country.
Teams from various parts of India have been taking part in the National Championship and it has been an enriching experience for players.
This is the first time a Sub-Junior National Championship for academies is being held and Hockey India General Secretary Rajinder Singh has thrown light on the tournament. In a conversation with Sportskeeda, Rajinder Singh said:
"This is the first time we are holding a Sub-Junior National Championship for hockey academies separately. Earlier, it used to happen as the Sub-Junior Hockey National Championship where teams from various state units used to participate thereby not giving a chance for hockey academies. To help more players, we have now divided the tournament into two where the state units will take part in one and the hockey academies in other."
Rajinder Singh said Hockey India is showing no leniency in following all the COVID-19 protocols and regular tests are also being conducted at the venue.
"We are clear with respect to following all norms of preventing COVID-19. Any team taking part in the tournament should show a negative test or a vaccination certificate (wherever applicable) and we are leaving no stone unturned in following this regulation."
A Raja, coach of Vadipatti Raja Hockey Academy, one of the participants in the tournament, concurred with Rajinder Singh and said the organizers are not leaving anything to chance and are following the rules meticulously. Raja said:
"We have been subjected to tests and they are checking all vaccination certificates. That way, the organizers and Hockey India are making us feel safe."
Raja lauded the decision of Hockey India to hold a tournament for academies and said it would go a long way in helping the players become professionals soon. He said:
"It has been a dream of six years for Vadipatti Raja Hockey Academy to play in a national-level tournament and it has now been realized. We played our first match on Wednesday and it has been excellent exposure for our players to be competing at a national level. If this continues, this will surely help all the players become more technically sound and inturn develop the sport from the grassroots."
Prem Singh, the coach of SGPC Academy in Amritsar, Punjab, said his team is high on motivation after watching the Indian team return home with a medal from the Tokyo Olympics.
"Our team is motivated to do well. They have seen Olympians from Punjab and they are inspired by them. They want to use this platform to showcase their talent. We had a good 25 days camp prior to the tournament. Our preparations were good. This team is supported by the Golden Temple in Amritsar and they have ensured that the players have all the best facilities."
Hockey Academies register huge wins
On the third day of the tournament Naval Tata Academy - Jamshedpur, Namdhari XI, Cheema Academy, Vadipatti Raja Academy and Mata Sahib Kaur Academy Jarkhar-Ludhiana registered wins.
Naval Tata Hockey Academy-Jamshedpur began the day three proceedings with a dominating 23-0 win over Berar Hockey Academy (Vidarbha) while Namdhari XI registered a comprehensive 15-1 win against Bhai Behlo Hockey Academy Bhagta.
Later, Cheema Hockey Academy issued a fine response to their first match's 0-8 setback with an emphatic 11-1 win against Mumbai Schools Sports Association while Vadipatti Raja Hockey Academy registered a hard-fought 3-2 win over HIM Academy.
In the final match of the day, Mata Sahib Kaur Hockey Academy Jarkhar-Ludhiana eased past Citizen Hockey XI with a 6-0 win.