Good signs ahead for hockey in India


hockey in India

The 2018 Hockey World Cup will be held in India, which will see an expanded participation from 16 teams. It will be the second time in eight years that India will host the tournament.

After a dismal performance in the 2010 World Cup, when it played the host last time, followed by an equally poor show in this year’s edition in the Netherlands, India would like to put on a better game as it hosts the next World Cup.

India has hosted two Hockey World Cups – one in 1982 in Mumbai, and another in 2010 in Delhi, where they finished fifth and eighth respectively. India also hosted the annual Hockey Champions Trophy in 1996 and 2005.

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has proposed to its executive body to consider holding 2018 World Cup matches at three different venues. If accepted, it would be the first such instance when World Cup league matches would be held at two different centres and the knockout, semi-finals and final would be held at a third venue.

According to media reports Mohali (in northern Punjab state), Bhubaneswar (in eastern Odisha state) and capital New Delhi are the three venues being proposed by FIH.

Glorious past, current decline

Field hockey was considered to be the national game of India till two years ago. However, the Government of India clarified in August 2012 that no sport has been declared as the national game.

Until the mid-1970s, India dominated international field hockey scene, winning eight Olympic gold medals. It also won the men’s Hockey World Cup held in 1975. Since then, barring a gold medal in the 1980 Olympics, India’s performance in field hockey has been dismal.

The popularity of field hockey has also declined massively in the country parallel to the decline of the Indian hockey team. Once ranked the top team in the world, the Indian team is currently placed 11th in the FIH rankings.

New apex body

Until 2008, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) was the apex body for hockey in the country. However, following revelations of corruption and other scandals in the IHF, the federation was dissolved and de-recognised, and a new apex body for Indian hockey called Hockey India (HI) was formed on May 20, 2009, with support from the Indian Olympic Association and former hockey players.

HI, recognised by the FIH, has the sole mandate to govern and conduct all activities for both men’s and women’s field hockey in India. HI has appointed Australian marketing expert Elena Norman as its CEO. Norman was involved with the marketing strategies during the 2010 Hockey World Cup in India.

Hockey India League

With an aim to increase the interest in Hockey, HI has launched a franchise-based tournament called the Hockey India League (HIL). Inspired by the highly successful Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament, the first season of HIL in 2013 saw participation from five teams.

The tournament is recognised by the FIH, which has also decided to provide a 30-day window for the forthcoming seasons so that all top players can participate.

Stadiums and venues

Owing to the long history of the sport, India has a wide network of Hockey stadiums spread across the length and breadth of the country. The launch of HIL and hosting rights for the 2018 Hockey World Cup is likely to see some old stadiums getting a facelift and new venues inaugurated.

Following the launch of HIL, Mohali inaugurated its new International Hockey Stadium in 2013, which serves as the home ground for Punjab Warriors. The other five HIL teams have seen stadiums being given a facelift in the cities of New Delhi (Dhyan Chand National Stadium), Lucknow (Dhyan Chand Astro-turf Stadium), Bhubaneshwar (Kalinga Stadium), Mumbai (Mahindra Hockey Stadium) and Ranchi (Astro-turf Hockey Stadium).

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