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It had rained last night and the field was still pretty wet. It was a windy day and there I was, sitting in the rodent rich, human poor ground supporting my neighbor, Arvind. He has been playing hockey since he was ten and was pretty good in it. From what I had heard, this match seemed to be pretty important as they had lost the last two. But what I found odd, was the fact that there was absolutely no one around except the players and a couple of parents. Now, I had gone to the same school as Arvind, so I knew that in these games there were usually students from the respective schools who would accompany their teams, but the ground bore a desolate look. Anyway, the game was in full swing and Arvind’s team was doing pretty well. Soon it was halftime and I asked him why no one from our school has come. ”Well, no one’s interested in hockey” he said, as if it was the most usual thing. I was stunned by this comment and stared at him for a few seconds. “What do you mean by that?” I asked. Wiping beads of sweat from his forehead he sat down and said, “Well, this is not cricket you know? People just don’t seem to have an interest in this.” The last thing I remember, students from our school literally begged the management to attend these to cheer their mates” I said. He explained how kids who were not into cricket are into basketball and football because of the immense popularity of NBA and various football clubs. This I knew, as I have often witnessed my friends stating their opinions and views about league matches but the fact that our very own national game did not generate any interest among our youngsters stunned me.

He then showed me how the coach of the other team was missing because he had himself gone to watch an IPL game to be held that evening. What amazed me was the look on Arvind’s face. During this whole conversation, he looked totally fine as if nothing out of the place was happening. ”Dude, we can’t do nothing. When the national team is not getting the appreciation they deserve, how can we expect anything”. His halftime was over, and he went back to his game. He was right, I tried to remember the last bit of news I had read about hockey. I had a faint memory of The Hockey India League or was it the India Hockey League. I remember that the teams that played were 5-6 in number and included a few Tier 2 cities. I had also read a heartwarming article by Ashok Kumar, Dhyan Chand’s son about his father’s brilliant contribution to the game. Apart from that, I didn’t remember anything. I felt worried as to how a game that had once won India accolades around the world in Olympics, was now fading away. Later that night I read up on the subject. It was not that there was any shortage of players, just that there was not a dedication towards bringing the game to the masses. As far as I remember there haven’t been any televised matches since 2009 apart from National events and the recently introduced league games. My research also brought out articles as to how the Sports Ministry on being questioned by a 10 years old had declared that hockey was not the National Sport of India. Also unlike their counterparts in cricket, tennis and badminton Hockey players are seldom featured as brand ambassadors.

But what worries me the most is the apathy towards junior hockey teams. The game would soon go into extinction similar to what happened to cricket in America, if the future generations are not introduced to the game. League games are a welcome step towards the future of hockey in India, but there’s still a long, long way to go.

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Rounak Bose

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