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Why is Hockey not in the good-books of Indian fans? There are several reasons for its downfall and they are
1. Hockey is not an easy sport to learn, practice and execute. There are lots of equipment which are required for playing hockey than cricket or another sport. One needs at least a ball, sticks for everyone in the team, 2 goals, 2 experienced goalkeepers and flat ground, so as to play a considerably better game. Not just these, to play hockey, players also need proper shin guards so as to avoid any serious injuries while playing, as hockey is very much prone to cause such injuries.
2. Hockey was never in the books of glamorous stars because of its difficulty and lack of resources to practice everywhere at any time. This is also mostly confined to the Northern states of India, especially to villages of Punjab, where there is no AstroTurf.
3. Hockey in India is taken care of by the Hockey India federation, established by the government of India. The lack of AstroTurf expresses how the government is not ready to fund this expensive sport but instead spends its funds on other sports like Wrestling, Kabaddi, Cricket and the like, where nowadays, there are private sponsors for these sports too. For instance, there’s a village in Sansarpur, where a lot of hockey players were created and trained. However, the government did not spend money on maintaining the Astroturf which made the players play on grass fields. This was on the part of the players who found it difficult to match with the international grounds. Everything, including the pace of the ball, speed and the like were different in the international levels, which was difficult for the Indian players to adopt immediately.
4. After the 1980s the success rate of Indian Hockey teams’ reduced drastically and another important reason behind this fall back is the fact of how caste-quotas came into sports too. Some were even not satisfied with having more Sikhs in the hockey team. Therefore, the most eligible and talented players were replaced with disabled players which brought down the quality of the Indian Hockey team.
5. Films make a great role in influencing the minds of the public. Therefore if the Indian movies would have shown the greatness of the Olympic Gold holders of Indian hockey, maybe then people would have known about how great players India had. But, the movies never emphasized on the great history of hockey but were more focused on preparing a documentary for Sachin and Dhoni. Even when Shahrukh Khan was the lead protagonist in the movie, Chak De India, which spoke about Indian Women’s Hockey team, after the movie, Shahrukh himself started sponsoring the Kolkata team in the IPLs.
6. Hockey is a team sport just like Cricket, football, kabaddi and the others. However, the typical mentality is witnessed when Indians fail to understand the importance of all players in a team, which includes defender, midfielder, forwards and goalkeepers. The forwards and goalkeepers are not the only main players in the game, every player is important, which is not understood by the Indians. This is one of the main reasons for India’s failure in international matches.
7. Hockey is also a sport which is prone to too much of physical contact, which can lead to serious injuries on leg, ankle, knees, nose, mouth, eyes and head, unlike any other sport. Also, unlike cricket, which can be played even in the streets, hockey cannot be played in such small street roads, but requires its basic requirements of a ground, goal posts and the right number of players and mainly 2 teams. Hockey can be played only on grass or Artificial turf courts. Just because the government did not focus on spending funds on establishing good Artificial turfs for training hockey, many players did go other sports like boxing, cricket and the like.
8. One of the main reasons of why hockey is not famous among people, even in India is the fact of how the media is never interested in showing Hockey to the public, while they are very busy telecasting other sports like Cricket, Kabaddi, Football and the like. The viewership of hockey has reduced due to less promotion for hockey and how the real valour of hockey is hidden in history. Only when kids and the youth get to know about how powerful Hockey is for India, will they watch those matches. Even now, it is mostly the Sikhs, Punjabis and the Namdhari’s who watch these hockey matches. The viewership of hockey is in the 6th position but still, people have lost the hope and faith that hockey will revive like before.
9. Hockey tournaments can be held in the big cities like Punjab, Amritsar and many more, just like the IPLs, KPLs and many more, but they are not held for hockey. Why? Because it does not have the glamour and so is not covered by the media and therefore does not interest anyone to go see the hockey matches even when it is conducted. This will lead to losses, which is another reason why hockey is not promoted in India.
10. All the stakeholders of this hockey sport, including the players, audiences, public officials, sponsors and the government officials are responsible for the downfall of Hockey in India itself.
The Indian hockey team scored 11 Olympic medals in the 1900s. There were many international teams who found it difficult to even score one single goal against India and that was how strong our Indian hockey team was. However, the first defeat hit the Indian hockey team during 1968 in the Munich Olympics, where India was defeated by New Zealand by just one point. After this defeat, the Indian team never came back with more power, in fact, it got even worse.
The team which the no.1 for so many years was suddenly placed in the 5th, 7th and even in the 8th positions. The worst case scenario was when the Indian Hockey team failed even in the qualifiers for the Beijing Olympics in the year 2008. Even in the London Olympics, the Indian hockey team was in the 12th position, which does not show any scope of development or any respect to its historic achievements.
India was never equipped properly so as to train its hockey players properly, and especially in the artificial turf grounds, which was introduced in the international matches since the 1970s. Uttar Pradesh had only 8 such grounds and one each in Varanasi, Jhansi, Saifai, Rae Bareli, Gazipur and Etawah. Lucknow has 3 such grounds but only one is in the condition to use, for the other two are redundant now.
Another aspect for such poor maintenance of a team is that the grounds are also poorly maintained. For instance, the ground in Lucknow, which has the AstroTurf since 2011 is now in shambles, because of its poor supervision. Recently the Indian Hockey League was conducted there and is now in the process of development. AstroTurf’s are important in terms of hockey grounds, for, the team players should get used to it and in whose absence the young players find it hard to cope with the speed game in the international levels and do fail to win the game.
Even the players seem to be more lethargic and less committed to bringing their team to the winning position. A lot of ex-Indian hockey players have quoted that the current players are not dedicated enough, not sincere enough to work for building the team better and to win the championship. Another player confessed that there is no money involved in Hockey, unlike cricket or tennis, therefore, does not motivate the players to be hockey players for the rest of their lives. Schools and other educational institutions no longer teach hockey like cricket or other sports, though with the exception, it is still not practised sincerely.
These are the reasons which made the new generation drift totally away from hockey, even in India, where it was termed as the National game, for its strong team which was undefeatable. Even though hockey is still played by some, it still needs a lot of support from the government and other sponsors who developed cricket as an emotion in India
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