National Sports Day: Veterans optimistic about reviving India’s hockey nursery

Bhopal: On the eve of National Sports Day, which falls on August 29, veteran international and national hockey players of Bhopal told Free Press that the golden era of hockey in Bhopal is history but the game is on the revival path, though much more needs to be done to turn Bhopal into India’s hockey nursery again.

They say there was a time when there were more than 50 hockey clubs and 10 playgrounds in the city but now there are just eight clubs and only one playground. Olympian Syed Jalaluddin Rizvi, who represented India in the 1984 Olympics said, “Hockey is still being played in Bhopal. National players like Afan Yusuf, Mohd. Umar and Khushboo are doing well. But the golden period of hockey in the city is over.”

“When we used to wield the stick, the atmosphere was very different. There were a large number of playgrounds in the residential areas, colonies and in educational institutions. They are gone now,” he added. Rizvi said, “There was a time when there were 62 hockey clubs in the city but they number just eight now. Schools and colleges don’t have playgrounds. Also, dedication is missing. Nowadays, children are not ready to work hard. They are opting for professions that can help them lead a luxurious life.”

“I think the things are looking up now. Movies based on sports, especially on hockey like ‘Chak De India’ and ‘Gold’ is also drawing the youth towards the game,” the Olympian added. Another hockey Olympian Mohammed Sameer Dad said, “In our times, there were no academies and hostels for players as are available now. But there were good number of players, clubs and grounds. We were passionate about hockey and we learnt from our seniors by watching them play.”

Dad further said, “Hockey is on the revival path in the city. There are many national players from MP. Our national hockey team is also doing well. Nowadays, hockey is played on AstroTurf (synthetic turf).  I think, government should provide AstroTurf in small towns too.”

Coach of Bhopal Hockey, Sajid Noor said, “No doubt, in comparison to our times, things are pretty bad.  Earlier, the associations were quite strong and local players got more chance. Now, we call players from outside the state.  Aisbagh Stadium is the only playground where the players can practice and its condition is also nothing to write home about.

Noor further said, “It is very unfortunate that very few players from the city are in the national team but we hope that things will change soon. Some senior hockey players are working on it. And after nine years, we are going to organise a month-long ‘Hockey League’ in Bhopal from September 5. We have also started U-19 tournament in schools in the state.”

He added, “aajkal ground ki nahi turf ki hockey bachi hai.” In the same vein, another Altaf-ur-Rehman said, “The situation is not bad but we should promote the game from school level. We have only four AstroTurf ground in the city. Out of which, two are under SAI (Sports Authority of India).  Besides, grounds the players also need financial support from government because a common man can’t afford the expensive kits.” “We should organise small tournaments to promote the game. The sports authority should find out about the financial background of players and help them as per their requirements,” Rehman added.

Of 10 grounds, only one survives

Earlier there were ten hockey playgrounds in the city including  Aishbagh, Sahidiya,  Bab-e-Ali,  Noor Mahal, Putlighar, Benazir, Central Library, BHEL and a playground near Bhopal  Railway Station. Out of these, now only Aishbagh survives and its condition is also nothing to write home about.

Friendly hockey match today

A friendly hockey match between the teams of SAI Academy and Hockey Academy would be organised at the Major Dhyanchand Stadium near Mayur Park on Wednesday to mark the National Sports Day. Mayor Dhyanchand – whose birthday is celebrated as the National Sports Day – would be remembered at functions to be organised by the Department of Sports and Youth Welfare all over the state, a press release said.

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