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Belated Diary II: Kazan Conundrum (6/1/2008)
Russia wants to be back in the sports business – very seriously. One of the main aspects it is concentrating in order to refurbish its sagging global image is to improve its rating in the sporting arenas. They see in field hockey a medal prospect. So, there is a lot of focus on hockey. Many turfs are coming up in almost all provinces -- Kazan is one such. The Tatarstan Province, of which Kazan is the capital, has come up with a fantastic field hockey infrastructure. It is named Dynamo Society Field Hockey Centre funded fully by the Provincial sarkar.

The new structure must be a costly affair. Fully air-conditioned, stands are three-storeyed, with excellent media facilities. Everything was spick and span and I hardly observed any initial hiccups. A royal treatment awaited for me as on that time – a day before the engagement – I was the only foreign journalist. As the event progressed a couple of them, mostly from the FIH side joined, and then as Belgium made unexpected progress two writers from that country were also spotted. Another one from France was also there in the later stages.

I could not use my laptop on the first day, because my three-pin plug won’t work but only two pins. Despite so many provisions, there was no adopter there in the media room. They could not help me either. This problem was solved next day when my hotel receptionist took me to many computer shops in vain, but in the last ditch effort in a small flea market I got it. Where malls cannot provide, Chandini chowk will. This is a global phenomenon, Kazan was no different. The English speaking Tejik descendent really solved my problem. I heaved a sigh of relief.

The people managing media could do every thing for me except wifi working for my laptop, besides plug. They could not do that for entire duration, but with a USP port I could overcome this, as all other terminals had round the clock network. One problem continued till last day was language. One lady translator -- she had a month long tour in India recently -- came to my rescue. But, being new to hockey sport she had run into problems in the beginning. One I vividly remember is, when I asked a question to the Russian coach how many penalty corners her team got? This translator could not translate this because she does not know what penalty corner is!

The press meets are interesting. One Stage Secretary, coach and managers of both teams, and then a translator on the dais. Perfect, but not so matching number of journalists to ask questions. Only time they used to have fair number of media men was for Home matches, which hardly the home team won. As I got a honoured seat because of lone foreign journalist, they all saw to it am always there in the press meets, in some occasions they also delayed the start waiting for me. So I made it a point to be there on time every time whether that meet was particularly of my interest or not. I was making up the numbers there for courtesy sake, and also their interest in popularizing the sport through media efforts.

All of a sudden Indian media world woke up to the fact that a Qualifier is going to be played with India in the fray. So, I got more than usual quota of offers to write -- and accepted to write for the Press Trust of India, as among other things, it has the reach. This was without giving a miss to my regular papers.

There was not much crowd for matches. For India’s first match there were around 50 supporters with Indian flags. They were all medical students, who would in fact lit up the event in the days to come.

With lot of difficulty India won the first match—against Russia. 33-year old Pritam Rani scoring a face saving winner.

After searching so many places, Richard Charlesworth came to a small cabin where I could locate an electric outlet, to let my laptop work uninterrupted.

It was a fun to work along side with him. He yelled, shrieked, jumped in joy, and was lively all through 70 minutes of Indian matches. He made so many observations on his long note book, and he ran like a sprinter in the half time to counsel Kaushik and Co. One thing certain about this man is that he is serious about what he does and more significantly this professional has a passion. That’s why perhaps he left a medical and political career and opted to be with hockey.

When one player tricked an umpire with a fake injury, he wrote in his register – an Academy Award occasion.

Interesting way of noting the facts, isn’t?

In the media room, there used to be a lot of refreshment items, but no vegetarian ones. Even innocent looking biscuits are egg laden, how to manage? After a day or two, I convinced the nice lady in charge of whole media show of bringing some fruits. Later I understood that fruits are the costliest among the eatables. Still they could provide that.

One pretty young girl, very business like, helped me in getting match sheets and press meet notes in English, without her serious helps, me fulfilling deadlines for agencies would not have been so smooth as it had been all through there. That the local time already is about two hours ahead of IST is a big nightmare. She is doing journalism, volunteered this job, and previously she worked in ice hockey events, field hockey is first time, and it is boring for her!! Once the vegetarian items come to the table, she will rush to me to inform that with a childish fervour – I am grateful to her for those bits of infos.

To be continued

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