New Delhi : Officials are becoming desperate to revive Indian hockey. The latest attempt is six-a-side schools’ tournament – the maiden tile of which was won by Amity International School of Noida here Friday.
First came the essentially made-for-television Premier Hockey League (PHL), with four seven-and-half-minute halves accompanied by all the razzmatazz – and now the six-a-side matches with two 10-minute halves.
However, students, many of who would have played this version for the first time, had fun playing the short and brisk 20-minute matches.
“Six-a-side hockey is fast and thrilling. This was a first experience for us in such tournament. If a coaching clinic is organized, then it is always an added bonus,” said Hemant Singh, part of Amity team which defeated Modern School, Barakhamba Road, 4-2 in the final at Delhi Public School, R.K. Puram.
Whatever the reasons Indian hockey administrators might advance, had wizards Dhyan Chand and K.D. Singh “Babu” been alive, they would have surely disapproved of this version.
After the not so successful experiment with PHL, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) seemed to like the idea of a still shorter version of the game, a la Twenty20 cricket, when sports management company SCORE came up with the idea.
Strangely, it was the same set of IHF officials who had turned down a similar proposal when it was mooted a few years ago.
K.P.S. Gill, who has been at the helm of the IHF for many years, claimed he was happy with the response – though the spectators comprised students of the host school.
“In this pilot project we experienced that we can make it (hockey) very popular. Now we will try to spread it to the other cities,” said Gill.
“The idea is to create more participation and generate more interest for the national sport among the young. If we are looking at the development of the sport at the school level, then six-a-side tournament is the best thing we have at hand.”
Strangely, the idea of taking hockey to schools came from a private company while IHF has done little to popularise the game on its own. Ten schools took part in the boys-only tournament for the Delhi Book Store Cup.
Another attempt to create interest among the students was the presence of India goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza, who conducted a coaching clinic for the youngsters.
“It’s a good exposure for kids. I also started like that. I will be glad if I am a regular part of these clinics in the future,” he said.
A few boys impressed officials with their game.
“We have spotted two to three talented boys and hopefully we will give them better training. The idea is to have a talent pool for the national team,” said Gill.
He also said that the six-a-side hockey would be played at more schools, but surprisingly not in those run by the government.
“The government schools are already into a lot of games, so I don’t think it is necessary to involve them now,” he said.
The organisers are hoping to make the tournament, played on grass, an annual feature and involve more teams.
“Since this was a pilot project, we thought of starting with only 10 teams on two days. Now we are confident that the next time we organise it we can do it on a bigger scale,” said Femke Oude Lohuis, a Dutch sports management expert who was the project manager of the pilot tournament.