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Familiar Gathering, but Unusual Function (11/19/2007)
--K. Arumugam
The gathering was familiar one, you mostly encounter in hockey functions in the capital. But it was unusual in many ways, not normally one hears about. And, certainly not the run of the mill stuff either. In a show of solidarity amidst the rather neglected stock of Indian whistle men, four of India’s leading umpires assembled at Russian Centre and waited for their turn to be honoured.

Delhi based Gian Singh Memorial Hockey Society organized a simple but impressive function to honour Sati, Viru, Raghu and Anu, all umpires of repute. Except Viru, who is officiating here in the Nehru Senior Cup, all others have traveled specifically to be part of the function. The evening went on a clock wise precision amidst a gathering that understands every facet of field hockey.

City’s oldest Olympian Commander Nandy Singh (gold medal, 1948, 1952) and India’s greatest centre-forward Harbinder Singh (Triple Olympian with a gold to boot) were joined by ‘Dronocharya’ award winner, the real Chak De coach M.K Kaushik

Of course the chief guest of the evening was Thakur Udhay Singh, on whose purse a full pledged hockey team has come up – Namdharis -- and whose team had been declared Hockey Year Book 2007 Best Team of the Year.

How much the Chief Guest loves hockey can be gauged by the fact that the Namdaris have laid their own synthetic turf at Bahini Sahib. His intimate appreciation of Commander and Harbinder Singh further proved, if at all one needs so, his love for the game. When Nandy Singh was introduced as Olympian, Thakur in his brief speech, delivered in triple language (Punjabi, Hindi and English), said: “There is a hell lot of difference between a Olympian and a Olympic Gold medalist”.

Fittingly, Thakur was the right choice for the evening. He gave away the trophy to ‘Man of the Evening’ Sati (Satinder Sharma), who will shortly be our men at Beijing and to Viru (not the Sholay one, but our own Vir Bahadur Singh). Commander Nandy Singh presented the trophy to Raghu (Raghu Prasad), while Anu (Karnataka’s Anupama) received the same at the hands of the IWHF Secretary Amrit Bose.

Nehru Society’s veteran organizer Shiv Kumar Varma gave away the Life Time Umpiring Trophy to Saini, who, according to him. Was the trainee of Gian Singh, on whose memory the function has been organized. Dr. Gurdeep Singh gave a brief introduction of Saini, who is an educationist and presently vice principal of Delhi’s Delhi Public School and were informed he was the spirit behind the vast sports infrastructure development in the famous school. Saini offered Rs.5000 given to him as the reward, to the development of hockey team in the school. Satinder was given a purse of Rs.10000 and other three its Rs. 5000 each. Money doesn’t count, but the gesture.

Not the miss the chance, Amrit Bose requested the chief guest to start a women team also, which received a full house applause. It was matching only when Kukoo informed that Satinder has been selected for next Olympics and Champions Trophy.

Nandy Singh, a treasure trove of vintage information, said Namdharis had a team even in the 40s and they used to be regular in the Aga Khan Cup tournament, now not regularly held.

The recipients were also given a chance to address, where they were spot on; measured as they used to be with the whistle.

Organizer Kukoo Walia compered the programme. He, here and there, briefed the unique contribution of umpires to the development hockey as a good viewer-oriented sports, while articulating the trails and tribulations of being an umpire. He also mentioned FIH’s Holland based Umpiring Committee Chairman Peter Van Reth’s email message for the function, which will appear in s2h tomorrow. Kukoo also delivered a heartfelt vote of thanks.

Conceptually the progarmme endeared everyone. Because, a legendary umpire’s son (Gian Singh umpired in two Olympics along side Glitch, former FIH president), who himself is an umpire, thought of honouring other umpires with the presence of so many umpires and with a chief guest who spends a fortune for hockey. Kukoo deserves a kudo. However, one thing that could have added further solemnity to the occasion was a portrait of Sardar Gian Singh. Kukoo, out of simplicity – Gian is his father -- might not have thought of it. One can understand.

All returned with sweet memory, and hopes many umpires on the wings get motivated and consider their prospects in the rightful way. There is space for umpiring, and Satinder’s rise proves what counts at FIH is competency and nothing else.

Captions
(From top)
1. Dignitaries on the dais
2.'Sati' thanks the organizers
3. Varma giving away award to Saini
4.The foursome are in a celebration mood
5. Nandy honours Raghu
6. 'Viru' get his trophy at the hands of Chief Guest
7.'Man Sunday' Satinder on his turn
8. All the four umpires with Kukoo Walia and the chief Guest, a fitting final moment of the evening.

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