Significant differences in physical fitness as well as fundamental skills divided the winning and losing teams competing in the augural edition of the Khelo India Women’s Hockey League U-16.
The week-long competition got underway at the iconic Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium on Tuesday (August 16).
The weak foundations in the ecosystem of the girls' category should be a worry for Hockey India. Barring one or two matches, teams won their games by a huge margin. Even members of the winning teams lacked anticipation, a key feature of the team sport.
However, Sports Authority of India (SAI) coach Piyush Kumar Dubey stated that players between the ages of 13 and 15 have a good chance of improving in the next four or five years if provided the right environment.
He told Sportskeeda:
“We will select potential players from this tournament for SAI’s National Center of Excellence Center scheme spread across the country. When the players get better facilities, including coaching, they will surely blossom.”
The Sports Authority of India A team beat Bhai Behlo Hockey Academy Bhagta by a huge margin of 30-0. The score indicates that the losing team either lacked adequate preparation or weren't at the same level as their opponents.
Meanwhile, Pritam Siwach Hockey Academy Sonepat Haryana beat Smart Hockey Academy 7-0 in Raipur. The SAI’s B team also beat the Anantapur Hockey Academy 18-0.
The outcome of both the matches hints that hockey in the age group, particularly in the girls’ section, is flourishing in just a few pockets.
The under-16 age group is considered a development group and the majority of the girls competing in the Khelo India Women’s Hockey League weren’t able to exhibit basic skills like trapping and shooting on artificial turf. A budding player competing in the league said:
“We don’t have facilities to play on the artificial surface."
The second phase of the league will take place in October in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. The top eight teams will play the third and final leg in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
A SAI official associated with the tournament said:
“The teams competing in the final leg will also be eligible for cash incentives."