We as a country are known for our passion and love for the game of cricket. We put our cricketers on a pedestal and we strive to emulate their on field heroics. But it is a great tragedy that cricket has super seeded all other sports in our country. So much so that hockey has taken a back seat over the years.
India has an unparalleled history in the game of hockey as we are the most successful men’s team in Olympic history with eight gold, one silver and two bronze medals. We last won a medal in the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Three years later India won the cricket world cup which led to a next generation of Indians dreaming to be cricketers rather than hockey players. Unfortunately hockey has fallen down the wayside down the years and several efforts at reviving the game in our country have been futile.
But now another attempt has been made this time by an enthusiastic group of alumni from four prestigious institutes in the country.
The United for Hockey (UFH) is a unique 5-year old hockey club based in New Delhi comprising of the alumnus of The Doon School, Mayo College, The Scindia School, Welham Boys’ School and a few other prominent Indian schools. The alumni from these four institutes got together and decided to host a United for Hockey invitational.
The hockey tournament was hosted last weekend on the astro turfs of the Major Dhyanchand national stadium. The event saw participation from all four schools along with two additional teams which were comprised of the almuni of these schools.
It was a fiercely competitive event which garnered the interest of hockey lovers in and around New Delhi. The first day had an initial round of matches while the second day hosted the semi finals, the third place playoff and the final.
In the end, it was down to Scindia School and Mayo College as they battled it out in the final to determine who would win the first ever UFH Invitational trophy. Both sides played with much verve and gusto but it was fine margins that finally decided the match. Mayo College ran out as the eventual winners by two goals to nil and were declared the winners of the inaugural UFH Invitational.
Hockey legend Zafar Iqbal was present as the Chief Guest for the evening. He paid tribute to both the finalists and also praised the efforts of the teams that took part in the third place playoffs.
Zafar Iqbal also highlighted the importance of such events as this is the only way that people will get an interest in games other than cricket. He mentioned that Indian hockey is on the rise again which is why we could expect to see a resurgence of our national sport in the years to come.
The head coach of the Association of Indian universities, Rajdeep Singh was also on hand to witness the event. According to him the introduction of astro turfs at the school level is extremely crucial for the success of hockey in the country. Another aspect that needs to be considered is the involvement of the families of players in such events. They will also get a level of exposure that they did not have before and this in turn would help them in encouraging their children to play more in the future. He also paid tribute to the efforts of the UFH to take such an initiative for the betterment of the game.
The UFH plans to have this as an annual event and we hope that other such organizations in different parts of the country can take a cue from them and help in bringing back the love for hockey in our country again.