A group of concerned citizens and sports lovers have come together to try and win back the sobriquet of “Nursery of Hockey” for Bhopal. As part of the endeavour, the city would witness a four–day Bhopal Nursery Cup hockey tournament at Aishbagh Stadium from April 17 to 20.
Bhopal – traditionally a city of hockey lovers – has given many an international and national hockey player to the country. However, with time, the tradition died and today Bhopal is hardly known for its hockey talents. “We want to change the situation,” said Abid Khan, one of the organisers of the event.
Media Associate Group, MP will be organising the tournament with the support of MP Sports Academy to promote the game and re-establish Bhopal as the nursery of hockey. Another objective of the tournament is to expose children to hockey matches with a view to igniting a love for the game in their hearts.
A total of six teams will participate in the tournament and will comprise of national and international players from the state, especially from Bhopal and Gwalior. Around 22 children from the state, who have played U-14 and U-16 hockey matches, will also get a chance to play with professional players in the tournament. Two matches will be played every day from 4 pm onwards.
Olympian hockey player Mohammad Sameer Dad from Bhopal told Free Press, “Bhopal was long known as the nursery of hockey across the world. It has produced many Olympian hockey players. But nowadays, children as well as their parents hardly have any interest in the game. How will the children get exposure until they play a tournament?”
“We are going to organise the tournament to create necessary temperament for matches and give exposure to children. Each of the six teams will have 18 players, including professionals and four players from U-14 and U-16 teams. The selection process is on and the teams will be named after their sponsors,” Dad added. He further said, “Earlier, we were planning to hold the tournament with eight teams of U-16 players. But as the number of such players was very small, we had to change our decision. Also, we needed to draw spectators and make the tournament interesting.”
He also said that hockey Olympians from the state like, Jalaluddin Rizvi, Altaf-ur-Rehman and Aslam Sher Khan and will also be present during the tournament to guide the players and motivate them. “We have got positive response from the MP Sports Academy. They have provided us ground for the tournament. And they have also promised that 24 players training in the academy would be participating in the event,” he said.
On being asked whether the tournament will become an annual feature, the Olympian said, “It will depend on the response of the public. If we get a good crowd, we will organise it again, definitely.” “We have formed the Media Associate Group to promote hockey and motivate children. And this is the right time for the tournament because summer vacations are about to begin and the children would be free from classes,” said Abid Khan.