They have just lost a match, and they look sad, but their coach won’t give up on cheering their mood. Telling the girls that failures are just a feedback about what you did wrong and what you need to work upon to be better next time. “Next match jitna hai ladkiyon!” (You have to win the next match girls!), says Mr Clement Cruize. Their lady coach, Mrs Seema Gajbhiye is equally supportive, “Haar jeet toh hoti rehti hai.” (Failures and success keep happening).
Meet the girls of Vinalaya Convent School, Saint Martin Nagar, Nagpur. An early Saturday morning, they had come all the way from Shambhu Nagar to the Vidarbha Hockey Association (VHA) premises for the inauguration match of the Inter-school Girls’ Hockey Championship. A first of it’s kind, this tournament is a joint venture of ‘The Hitavada’ and the Vidarbha Hockey Association (VHA) and is conducted by VHA at its Amravati Road grass playfield.
In an era where cricket overshadows every other game, the trio, Mrs Seema Gajhbhiye, Mr Clement Cruize and Mr Sandeep Singh are doing an amazing job of promoting girls’ hockey in their school. “This was just their first match. They have more to come. With practice, we will be better”, said Mr Cruize. “Having a lady coach is advantageous. The girls find it easy to connect with her. Their parents are also at ease”, he added.
When asked about the attitude of girls towards sports he said, “Some have this inbuilt talent of excelling in any sport. There are others who are very eager to learn a sport. However, climbing the ladder in this field needs a lot of money. This is a major reason why opportunities are ignored or lost. The talented have no money. The majority of the parents are not supportive. They want their girls to focus on studies and not waste time playing. Talent ki toh bilkul bhi kami nahi hai! (there’s absolutely no dearth of talent). What we need is a proper central body to exploit this talent. “
The VHA which is an Associate Member of Hockey India since 2013 has been put up to serve this purpose. They have organised tournaments at the school-level, district-level and state-level to generate interest and awareness among the youth about this sport. But when I visited their premises I was saddened to see that they still have a grass playfield. “The Association is progressing in the right direction on acquiring astroturf in Nagpur. We approached the Chief Minister, and the Maharashtra Government has recommended the proposal to the Central Government. We hope it gets sanctioned in the budget session. We will soon get a turf ground,” said VHA secretary D.S. Karunashankar.
However, the VHA has always been controversial when it comes to elections. There have been many allegations against the authorities. “VHA is corrupt. It’s been many days since we were shown the promise of bringing in an astroturf court. But, we see no progress. All they do is talk big. There’s not even a single turf court in Nagpur. Kuch nahi ho sakta! (Nothing can happen!)”, said a young hockey player, who regularly practises and participates in hockey tournaments.
This is the attitude players have towards the governing body of hockey in Vidarbha. While interacting with the VHA officials and the players I observed that the VHA needs to learn to make better use of their facilities to produce more and more players. “We don’t have a proper hockey academy for professional training. There were rumours that Sports Authority of India (SAI) might open a new centre in Nagpur. But there was no news about it later. They remained rumours”, said another player. Our aspiring athletes need help.
Not just financial help but they need dedicated and focused support from the Government. They need our complete support too. We need to bring into effect a culture where parents and teachers encourage students to pursue their interests in sports. We need to make a collective effort to revive this sport.
Back in 2015, the VHA inaugurated a Hockey Museum
This was the initiative of the VHA president, Sidra. The primary intention was to create awareness about the rich history of Indian hockey, and it’s legends. It was thought of as an encouragement for the aspiring young hockey players. The museum in its first phase had a display of photographs of all the Indian Olympic Captains since 1928. The implementation of the second phase was said to be in process. The details of Indian hockey legends were supposed to be put on display. I was in fact surprised that a museum dedicated to hockey exists. I was also doubtful because there was no mention of the same on the internet. Curious, I planned a visit.
But what welcomed me there was disappointing. The fate of the museum is sealed. Today, the museum is just an empty room. Not close to the mental image I had formed. The very few photos are assembled close to the ceiling. The second phase never got implemented. It is turned into a store room instead.
“The museum is just for namesake. The officials use it to sit and pass the time. No one cares. The money or the budget allotted for the development of the museum gets dissolved before it reaches here”, said a hockey player, who visits the premises regularly for practice. “There is a huge collection available with us. We cannot display all of it”, said an official when asked about the stunted execution of the project. Is that even an acceptable answer?
Is this the dignity with which we treat a glorious sport like hockey? Where cricket’s ‘Blades of Glory’ has made it to ‘Tripadvisor’, the whereabouts of this hockey museum are not known even to the residents of Nagpur. When it comes to our national sport why has the role of media been so bleak? How many of us are aware of the Indian Hockey team and its pompous past? I remember seeing my grandfather being super excited to watch the day’s hockey match. I remember him jumping with joy whenever India won. It’s a shame we are ignoring this rich history of Indian hockey.