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Sahara can help hockey on a big way (2/7/2012)
--K. Arumugam
Sahara can help hockey on a big way

Sahara is one of the Indian giants in business. Further, it is most visible of big business brands. It has positioned itself well in the society as well with its continued emotional contact with issues that mattered, like honouring Kargil war heroes or supporting sports of all hues.

When Sahara started its sporting avtar, it came to hockey first before going to Cricket in the mid 90s.

When India won lot of tournaments in 2003, and the national team was not without a title sponsor, in the wake of Castrol crying off, Sahara stepped up.

Briefly, even the national team stayed at their famous complex for training. Sahara also paid fixed amount of money for each player till the 2004 Olympics.

Now that the same company that has emotional link with hockey has come out with Rs. 1000 Cr social spending, its time it renew its contact on a big way.

Of course, as a vibrant company they will look upon national team sponsorship, and it is ok, as they have been so till recently.

Their seven-year contract has to an end last year, and it seemed it was further extended for about an unknown period. This also expired.

National team sponsorship is fine, welcome. If Sahara pledges long term commitment with hockey administration, both national and international, it will be fine.

Certain things Sahara can do is given below

Indian national team preparation solely depend on government agencies. While acknowledging the governmental support to sports, it is also felt certain things do not gel with government.

Equipment support, for instance, takes time. Government goes by certain standard guidelines on team preparation, like how many number of players to be trained, and how, and how long etc. This requirement vary from time to time.

It is better these things are left to the National Coach and his team, and the financial requirement of which are met by sponsor like Sahara. This will help national teams train better.

Secondly, Indian domestic scene. Lot of innovation and funding is required, which sponsor like Sahara can think of with the support of the national parent body.

Annual competition, apart from mandatory ones that link to Olympics, are need of the hour. In short, PRIZE MONEY INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENTS ARE A VACUUM AREA IN HOCKEY, FASTER IT IS FILLED BETTER FOR HOCKEY'S VISIBILITY, MORE SO IN INDIA.

At least five countries in the world need to have invitation tournaments like Azlan Shah Cup. The FIH or AHF can come out with proposal, which Sahara can take up.

One major tournament for both men and women, like now defunct Indira Cup, is a long felt need, in India.

National Championship ought to be expanded, extended, modified, and will become a worthy competition.

Women hockey is one thing where sports and social objective mingle like of which Sahara would like to combine in its CSR approach.

Women hockey in particular need wide range of input. Given right kind of support, our women hockey can easily become a global force, quicker than men’s, and is what we saw in 2002 when they won the Commonwealth Games gold.

Player incentives is a long pending issue which needs urgent attention. Hopefully, Sahara, which has some experience on this count, think of it.

Functions, melas, award ceremonies apart, Hockey need fundamental changes. We have a feeling Hockey India will be too happy to embrace Sahara. Need for Hockey India and Sahara to sit together and take hockey to another planet. It is possible.

Past dues by it to the FIH, a contentious issue, can easily be overcome in the context of emerging new situation.

Its time all the stake holder of hockey to sit together and consider Sahara not as the National Team sponsor, but beyond that.

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