With yet another failure at the Olympics (India’s worst ever) the Indian hockey team continues to be showered with brickbats. India lost all their matches to finish last, including hammerings from lowly placed teams such as New Zealand and Belgium. So do the players really deserve all this criticism? Did they not try their best? Were they not good enough? A thousand questions are being asked. But very few answers are being offered by the Hockey bosses.
Our national game has been suffering due to the ongoing dispute between rival hockey governing bodies - Hockey India and Indian Hockey Federation. The infighting in hockey relates to recognition from the concerned International Federation and the Indian Olympic Association, amalgamation of the two bodies, conducting fair proper elections and holding of regular National tournaments. This decline of Indian hockey, and the inability by India to win a single world class tournament in the last thirty years, has resulted in the loss of a generation of hockey fans, drying player base, shrinking of corporate sponsorship, and other sports like cricket and tennis rising up in popularity to take hockey’s place.
The facilities for hockey in comparison to other sports like cricket are pretty substandard. India has just about 20 astro turf grounds for hockey compared to more than 200 that a small nation like Netherland has. Ministry of Sports had invested about USD 3.25 million in Indian hockey ahead of this year’s Olympics. That’s a miniscule amount compared with the money that flows in Indian cricket. Hockey needs much more investment to raise the standard of coaching in domestic hockey and having quality physiotherapists helping the players. There is also a glaring need to involve the right people, like professional administrators, paid professional marketers and ex-players as they understand the sport well. Unless our politicians get out of sports and there is a concrete positive effort to restructure our national sport, the national players will find themselves being made scapegoats after every debacle!