Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Grappling with age-old problems, Indian hockey is now coming to grips with the embarrassment of overage players. Not that this, too, hasn’t existed before.

It’s just that this time, at the junior under-18 camp in Bhopal, the problem has been highlighted in its alarming excess.

Out of 55 athletes, tests announced 50 overage, which led to a loss of face for the game’s keepers as 90 per cent of the players were from the Sports Authority of India, which is the saddest part of it.

Needless to say, a new camp has had to be convened after this tragedy. It is the coaches and officials mainly, who are to blame for this. And they engage in such practices for the sake of fame and cash rewards.

I remember, once in Subrata Cup, many participants were disqualified for the same reason.

Table tennis, cricket, almost every sport in this country is plagued by this malpractice.

The country suffers when the age groups are not respected. Every older player pushes out some junior who deserves that place, and for whom that category was expressly intended.

People might recall Mumtaz Malik of Bhopal, who represented India at the junior World Cup, where the age limit is 21 years, when he was something like 27 years old.

What is more, I also know of instances when we’ve gone on to win the junior World Cup with a few overage players in the side.

It is myopic really to field overage players because when compared to the long run, immediate, and ill-gotten, success is a harmful impetus that points you in the wrong direction.

We must adhere to age limits and classifications. That way the game will benefit.

Elsewhere, something of great significance occurred when England beat Germany 5-3 to take the European Championships gold.

On the road to the final, England also defeated the Netherlands 2-1.

It is a surprise result because England are not exactly an European powerhouse.

That tag goes to Germany and the Netherlands who have, for four decades, ruled the roost, in Europe and the world at large.

England’s victory, unless it is just a flash in the pan, signals the rise of a new power.

Locally, September 12 saw the Bengal Hockey Association (BHA) distributing equipment and cash awards among all its sixty units at a function where Olympians and players, including those from other disciplines, were honoured.

As part of the same programme, hosted in honour of Pranab Mukherjee, BHA’s chief patron, the union finance minister asked for a detailed project report and promised full backing for the association.

A long wait is coming to an end on October 8, when union sports minister M.S. Gill officially inaugurates the astroturf at Sports Authority of India (SAI), Salt Lake.

The Beighton Cup, in December, can finally be played, for the first time on astroturf, in its 114th year.