After the success of the Indian Premier League (IPL), India’s National Sport is set to tread the same path. World Series Hockey (WSH), a joint initiative between the Indian Hockey Federation and the sports channel Nimbus Sports, is trying to breathe new life into the often-neglected sport, and make it as entertaining as the IPL. They have roped in actor Suniel Shetty as the brand ambassador.
Suniel says, “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to promote the sport, which actually made us proud decades ago. In the ’60s and ’70s, if Indians were known for anything, it was hockey. There were players like Sher Khan, Govinda and Zafar Iqbal, who were unbelievably good in their time.”
There are eight privately-owned teams —Bhopal Badshahs, Chandigarh Comets, Chennai Cheetahs, Delhi Wizards, Karnataka Lions, Mumbai Marines, Pune Strykers and Sher-e-Punjab — battling it out for the champion’s trophy, starting on February 29. “Featuring hockey players from across the world, states playing against each other, not to mention all the glitz and glamour, this league will be like the IPL T20. This is something that hockey needs,” says Suniel.
The actor is not only the brand ambassador, but will also have a small equity in WSH. “I own the Karnataka Lions. I have gone ahead and chosen some good players from India and abroad,” he reveals. So far, Suniel is the only Bollywood celebrity who owns a team, and he is seeking support from the fraternity to make this initiative a success. “I will try and invite all my friends to support hockey. In the interiors of India, lots of people still play hockey. So, if this game can be an alternate career for young boys, there is nothing like it.”
The action-packed league of 59 matches, featuring 200 players from across India and the world, will be televised live across 30 countries. The prize money for the winning team will be $2 million (approximately Rs.10,00,00,000). Suniel reveals that Telegu Music director Vidyasagar has composed the team song.