This stick and ball game has enough magic to captivate people. However, there isn't much of a crowd to be enchanted here.
Surprisingly, the popular Lal Bahadur Shastri Hockey Tournament has somehow lost it's charm this season. Apart from a small group of children that have registered their presence everyday, the stands wear a deserted look.
But, that hasn't deterred the spirits of Nitin Manru, the 14-year old enthusiast, who has been watching the game from the sidelines everyday. “I have seen Dhanraj Pillay on TV and to watch him play at such a close distance is just great,” said the class eight student.
The group reaches half an hour before the start of play and stays on till late in the afternoon. “It is not an excuse to skip school,” said Pawan Kumar (14), who ironically, has been doing just that since the tournament began. “I recognise a few and it's good to see their style of play,” he justified.
“We love the game and play it often. It’s not just about the big names but the game itself,” said 15-year-old Viju, who plays the game in an alley next to his house. The tournament may have failed to attract people but that hasn't adversely affected the prize factor. “The prize money has been increased this year to Rs 25,000 and the highest scorer will get a motorbike,” said an organiser.
“The idea to shift to Chandigarh was floated by some sections but we must let the game grow as a whole and not just in certain pockets of the country,” said another organiser explaining the poor turn out this season.