That the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) decided to hold the all-India inter-varsity men’s hockey tournament at a neutral venue, shows that it is serious about reforming the system.
The week-long competition, comprising the top-four teams from the four zones, concluded at the Shivaji Stadium here on Monday. The final was played between Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar, and MG Kashi Vidyapeeth, Varanasi, with the former winning 4-3.
The winning team’s manager, Manu Sood, expressed satisfaction over the fair play. “It’s good the AIU is thinking of cleansing the system,” he told HT.
Associated with varsity hockey for over two decades, Sood said the event was always played in a hostile environment. “The hosts always won, and the other teams never stood a chance,” he said on the alleged manipulation.
The statement carries weight. The last edition was held at the Barkatullah University in Bhopal, and the hosts walked away with the trophy. Instead of repeating their performance, the Bhopal team didn’t even figure in the top-four this time, hinting that all was not right in the previous edition.
What is intriguing is that the AIU acknowledged that host universities did manipulate results, but it didn’t initiate action against the offenders.
Gurdeep Singh, AIU joint secretary, said, “Sometimes it’s difficult to verify facts.” Perhaps, this is the reason why the AIU decided to host the hockey event at a neutral venue, he added.
Sood said there had been several incidents of alleged manipulation by hosts in the past, but the AIU remained a silent spectator. “The AIU must have been hand-in-glove with the host university, otherwise how could it ignore indiscipline during the tournament.”
He recalled an incident from the meet in Mumbai, which the home team won. “A day before the semifinal against Mumbai, our players were told not to give their best. The boys were scared and to avoid a backlash we had to relinquish the match,” he said on GNDU’s below-par performance.
According to him, this had an adverse impact on the players. “Some of the top players don’t want to play inter-varsity as they are scared.”
Despite the criticism, Gurdeep was hopeful that playing at neutral venues would see a revival of hockey. “Our aim is to curb manipulation and raise overall standards,” he said.