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Pathetic present and unsure Future (9/11/2003)
--Alex Chandy
Just the other day, few state aficionados of hockey were brooding that the sport which once, not too long ago, threw up players of true worth has come to a sorry pass. Sorry, no! That's putting it rather mildly. For one who has seen, written and been part and parcel of hockey in Uttar Pradesh for two decades or thereabouts, the rise and fall were amazing and unbelievable, The rise knew no bounds and the fall no depths. Every- thing, which goes up, must come down. But does that also mean, what goes down cannot come up again?

Well, that was the topic for discussion when the officials met informally at the visitors' lounge of Dhyan Chand Stadium on the day the 52nd edition of Senior Women's National championship was inaugurated. I've heard these questions being asked several times over arid for several years now. So when these 'lovers of the sport', as I would like to call them, talk of a revival, one only hopes that things would move beyond the loud thinking.

It is easy to chorus from rooftops, but never easy getting down to doing what is being chorused. Gone are the sports hostels, gone are 1he clubs, gone are the coaches and most importantly gone is the 'hockey at- mosphere' in its entirety. Little wonder then that the sport is presently languishing in the state which taught the rest of the country how to 'manufacture' quality players by the dozens. That is applicable equally to both men and women.

Oh! What a treat it was watching some of the fin- est players in action in our very own Babu stadium. Dhyan Chand and Kunwar Digyijay Singh 'Babu' are two names to conjure with in state hockey. They left their stamp on world hockey ages ago. Those gentle souls continue to live in our midst. They are immortal in their own rights. And, if the state where they be- longed to does well, the joy doubles.

That was joy every hockey lover knew within a few years of the start of Sports Hostels. The results were amazing. And perhaps, for the first time in the country a scheme such as this met wide acclaim. Punjab was the only other state providing good players at the same time. They had their own nurseries. But the hostels of mar Pradesh were simply matchless. Dreamed up by the late 'Babu' with Man Friday Jaman Lal Sharma, an Olympian, by his side to pro- vide all assistance, the-hostels proved a hit beyond expectations. just a few years, it started churning out players. Although there are a whole lot of them, I would like to name just two that caught world attention. Mohd Shahid in the men's and Prem Maya in the women's id the state and country proud. I was one of those lucky ones to see the two start their playing careers from scratch. The tremendous hard work they put in ay after day, week after week, month after month and ear after year till they finally achieved excellence is un believable. A Herculean task indeed it was. But they did it through sheer grit and determination. There were innumerable players coming out of these hostels.

They also had the good fortune of having good coaches at that time. Coaches who were devoted to le cause. Coaches who had a vision. And that is what say is missing now. Players may have it in them but neither the coaches nor the authorities have any inter- est. Above all, the will to do anything worthwhile is missing. That is the bane of UP hockey today.

It is time the Olympians and internationals and also he officials put their heads together and do something to revive the game. I have no doubt if they can join forces, an atmosphere can be created once again. Funds can be raised and hockey can rise like a phoenix from its ashes. The 52nd senior women's hockey brought here by Bula Ganguly can be the booster one is look- ing for. The momentum should be carried forward. someone will have to take he lead.

I set my eyes on Bula some thirty years ago. She vas darting down the flank with such speed and ball control that I shall never forget her game. She turned into a coach later and after all these years, she has capped her organising ability with this great event. Here's one more person who is dear to me for all what she has done for the game. Her contribution has been invaluable and devotion unmatched. That despite all odds which I would not like to go into details. Hats off to her.

Courtesy: Souvenir of the 52nd Senior Women's National Championship, 2003.

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