Punjab’s grassroots hockey academy stuck in grass pitch
A girls’ hockey academy of the SGPC in Punjab seemed headed nowhere as there is only a grass pitch to train with no signs of a synthetic turf being laidother sports Updated: Mar 21, 2017 22:08 IST
A prominent hockey academy for girls opened by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) at Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab, three years ago threatens to run aground due to the absence of the very basic infrastructure - an artificial turf.
The academy was opened by the influential SGPC in May 2014 and trainees from the region were drafted in with the assurance they would be provided good playing facilities besides free education and boarding.
But the players have been mostly confined to training on a grass pitch. The results have been good with eight players from the academy chosen among a core group of 33 by Hockey India (HI) for its junior women’s squad.
However, this recognition could be misleading as the initial bunch of trainees chosen included 20 outstanding players from Shahabad in Haryana, regarded as the hockey hub of the region. They followed Baldev Singh, a reputed coach hailing from Shahabad, who was appointed as the hockey expert.
A Dronacharya awardee, Baldev is disappointed with the state of affairs. “Playing on grass is of no use. I don’t see any logic in sweating on the natural surface these days when all national level competitions are played on artificial surface,” he told HT.
While artificial turf made its Olympic debut at Montreal in 1976, at the Asian level, the 1982 New Delhi Games marked the beginning.
To train on the artificial pitch, the trainees now travel to Ludhiana, over an hour’s journey from their base. It is an inconvenience, but there is no choice. “We go on weekends,” said Baldev.
Although the proposal for an artificial turf is pending since 2014, Baldev is not sure whether the 40 trainees, some of them internationals, will get the facility in the near future. “I have no idea, so far there is no turf,” he said.
The trainees played a major role in Punjab winning the under-17 and under-19 girls’ titles at the National School Games in 2015-2016. Representing Punjab, the girls have also been dominating the national sub-junior competition since 2014.
However, the national hockey federation has no scope to redress the problem. Hockey India has no provision to give financial assistance to improve infrastructure at grassroots level. According to HI spokeswoman, Elena Norman, academies should apply to the state government for financial grant through the state hockey unit.
When contacted, SGPC president, Kirpal Singh Badungar, put the ball in Baldev’s court. “He (coach) should be able to provide necessary inputs,” he said.