When there is a debate on grooming youngsters for modern hockey, artificial turf is one of the key points. This, however, isn’t on the minds of over two dozen girls of the Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, situated in the busy Durga Park area of south-west Delhi.
It is unlikely the school will figure in record books for its infrastructure --- the morning session is for girls, numbering over 1000, while evenings are reserved for boys. However, the girls have already made a mark by winning bronze in the under-14 group at the recent National School Games in Ranchi.
A small concrete platform, which doubles up as a handball and basketball court, is also used for hockey.
When HT visited the school on Friday, players were braving the morning chill to prepare for a national age-group meet. At least eight players, according to the games teacher Pawan Kumar, are expected to figure in the state team.
The players though were unconcerned about the concrete surface. In fact, exuberance was the hallmark of the drill.
During the Ranchi Games, at least nine girls from the school were members of the state team. Kalyani, a Class VII student, was outstanding in the bronze medal play-off match against Uttar Pradesh. She scored the opening goal for Delhi and played a crucial role in the second. “I grabbed the opportunity to score a point,” she recalled.
In the opening league match, Delhi drew 2-2 with Haryana and scored a solitary goal against Chandigarh to advance. In the quarters, up against a better side, they contained Punjab 2-2 in regulation time, and outclassed them in the penalty shootout. Delhi lost to Odisha 1-3 in the semis.
Hockey was introduced in the school in interesting circumstances. Initially, Pawan was keen on handball but poor umpiring during the inter-zonal competition in 2012 was the turning point, and he shifted to hockey three years ago. These days, the handball goalposts are used for hockey drills.
After settling down, the team made an impression in the zonal competition. In the last edition, Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya performed in all three groups — U-4, U-17 and U-19.
The prize money earned was invested in purchasing hockey sticks. “Better equipment was the motivating factor,” said Pawan. “As the players hardly play on turf, they don’t have to raise funds to buy shoes meant for the artificial surface. Each pair would cost between Rs 7,000 - Rs 10,000.”
He pointed out that since almost all the girls hail from weaker sections, travelling to the National Stadium, which has modern facilities, isn’t practical. “Each side, the bus journey would cost Rs 20 per player. It is beyond their reach. Hence, we only go before a big competition.”
Even if good facilities are beyond their reach, the girls are enthusiastic about winning gold in the next edition of the National School Games. “The colour of the medal will be yellow the next time,” said Kalyani.