By Adil Imroz:
There was a time when the popularity of a sport called Hockey rose to a level where it earned a place in 1928 Olympics. And then history was made. The national team won a gold medal in that Olympics.
To the surprise of most of you, here we are talking about Indian hockey– the game which earned us the first ever gold medal in Olympics. But mind you, it was just the starting of the tale to be written by the then Hockey players. Indian hockey earned consecutive gold medals till 1956 Olympics (Melbourne). India later went on to add two more Olympic gold medals in 1964 (Tokyo) and 1980 (Moscow). In addition, India won 1 silver and 2 bronze medal in Olympic Games. It was the first non-European team to be a part of the International Hockey Federation. India defeated USA 24-1 in Los Angeles 1932. This is the biggest victory in Olympic history. India’s Ajit Singh scored the fastest goal in Olympic history when he scored after only 15 seconds in the opening match in Montreal 1976 against Argentina. In Berlin 1936, Hitler was so impressed with the game of Dhyanchand that he offered him the post of General in his Army. These are few of the glories which Indian Hockey has gifted to us. But now let’s return back from the fairytale history of past to the painful reality of present.
What is the state of present Indian Hockey? Nothing much, just controversies in the governing bodies, ego clashes among administrators, ouster of the national team from 2008 Beijing Olympics and revolts by the players demanding their contract dues. Not much blame can be put on players because they are really putting up a brave front despite all to play this game.
What is the reason for such a drastic downfall of our national game? By downfall I mean both in popularity and achievement. By the way, how many of you knew that Hockey is the national game of India? Not only Indian Hockey has gone way to down in the rank’s chart but it also finds it really difficult to get some space in the present media. Leave media, even people like us become dumb when asked about hockey. I don’t think many of us know who is the current captain or coach of Indian Hockey team? Or considering the recent controversies in the governing bodies of Indian Hockey, I should rather ask, does our Indian Hockey team at all has a coach and captain or not? Funny, isn’t it, that majority of us cannot answer a question related to our national game. But wait here, if I ask you about Gautam Gambhir’s injury or the place where Dhoni went for vacation with Sakshi, I guess many of you know the answer. You can also tell amazing tales about Yuvraj’s relations with Deepika or Kim Sharma. So to conclude, our national game has very little or zero popularity amongst us.
If we compare cricket and hockey, many would say that because of its popularity, cricket is flourishing. But I think if Indian Hockey players would have got the kind of exposure and resources which Indian Cricketers get, they wouldn’t have met this fate. Every big name remains always ready to sponsor any cricketing event. Sponsorship brings so much money that today Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) is the richest cricket board in world. Government, whether state or central, never hesitates to encourage the cricketers. They announce rewards in tunes of crores. They are given plots of land and splendid villas. They are given top jobs, no matter if they are college graduates or not. Has any of these things ever been done or promised to the hockey players? Where Indian cricketers get crores of rupees, our poor National Hockey players have to go on hunger strikes to get their money. Even the coach’s contract money is kept due for a long time.
It’s high time when our government instead of showing just concerns and fears should act and bring some changes so that our national game can be revived. The governing body complains of lack of funds. I think our national game and its players deserve some more money out of government funds. In view of so many scams and corruption charges, if some money is utilized in Hockey, I don’t think it will incur much loss to us. Keeping in mind the upcoming 2012 London Olympics, some good rewards must be announced for good performance for the team. Media should also be fair to this game and its players. So far it has adopted a step-motherly attitude towards hockey. But now is a time for revival, revival in our thoughts and attitude. Not only media but even we the common people should change our perspective towards hockey.
Government should also intervene in the working of hockey administrations and see that it’s free of corruption. It should also give subsidy for sponsorships to pull more and more sponsors. We should learn the art of marketing sport from BCCI which has made cricket a brand that sells the most. Moreover we can take examples from our arch-rival Pakistan who have worked hard to keep hockey alive and prosperous in their country. There are so many talents in rural areas, such talents should be found out and nurtured as we do in cricket. We have so many former Hockey players who helped the team in bringing accolades and now are languishing in poverty. As a sign of gratitude and to keep up the spirits of Hockey, Government should help them in their livelihood.
I think we can do this much and even more to revive the sport which brought to us our first ever gold medal in Olympics. Long Live Indian Hockey!