Olympians Dhanraj Pillay, Joe Phillip, and the Nimal Brothers are the names that crop up when Poona, now Pune, is talked about. The city once known as the Oxford of the East, was even better known as the nursery of Indian hockey. But the latter sobriquet is history, as for six years, there has been nothing much followers of hockey have to say about Pune.
Hockey stadiums are running to near empty, with the present generation mostly giving the short end of the stick to a game which has yielded eight Olympic gold medals in the past.
But now, there is a ray of hope for this game, thanks to Subhadra's Nursery Bhosale Public (SNBP), the first school in the State to have a Federation International Hockey (FIH)-recognised surface on their premises.
“Yes, we are the first school in Maharashtra to have a full-fledged astroturf in our premises,” says Rutuja Bhosale, the institution's director of academics.
“Hockey, I do agree, has taken a back seat when it comes to promotion of the game, and since it is the only game which has won gold medals for the country, both pre- and post-Independence, we thought of giving the children the best exposure on the surface played internationally,” explains Bhosale, the academic director who wants to give equal importance to sports.
"This is our national game and we think it should find a place of pride,” says Bhosale, herself a cricketer in her college days (she captained the BMCC), having played inter-college women’s cricket in Pune.
One's personality does not just depend on academics alone. “Our aim is not just to produce good academicians but to build a good personality, and that is the reason we give equal importance to sports as well,” explains Bhosale. The institution which started with merely two rooms in 2007, today has several branches across the twin-cities of Pimpri-Chinchwad and Pune and caters to CBSE, SSC, IGCSE board students.
Not only this, the ground is not just for their boys and girls but open to anyone who wants to play the game. "All are welcome to come here and play. We will also request various associations and federations to organise championships here," says Bhosale, who is eagerly waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to ease so that they can go ahead with the official inauguration of the surface.
The company from where the surface has been imported is TigerTurf Australia Pty Ltd and approved by the FIH in its letter dated November 15, 2019.