Hockey stadiums in Pune that produced greats are in shambles
While some present a pathetic picture of utter neglect, one has turned into a hotspot for liquor parties and gambling.pune Updated: Jul 08, 2017 16:25 IST
PUNE It was in 1936, when two hockey players from Khadki, Joseph Phillips and Baboo Nimal, were selected to be a part of the Indian Olympic team to play at the Berlin Olympics.
Most of the local residents from Khadki appeared on the railway station to bid farewell to Phillips and Baburao. Under the leadership of Dhyan Chand, the team beat Germany 8-1 in the final to win the gold medal.
Inspired by their performance, Khadki turned out to be a nursery of hockey players and produced several Olympians including Dhanraj Pillay, who later became the captain of the Indian team and participated in four Olympics, followed by Vikram Pillay and Vikas Pillay, Vikram’s younger brother.
However, the sport which once reigned as the premier sport of India and the nation’s claim to fame, has been relegated to the sidelines in the city in recent years with no signs of revival on the horizon.
The Khadki area, which once thronged with hockey enthusiasts, have now degenerated into vacant spots and the budding hockey players are struggling to find a proper ground for training.
To encourage the hockey players, two grounds - Chikhalwadi and Khadki Cantonment Board (KCB) were developed in the Khadki area, while Ammunition Factory ground and SRPF ground, have been venues for several state and national level tournaments.
However, over the years, negligence has started taking a toll on these grounds and even after spending crores of rupees, they are not in a state for players to even practice.
“It’s very saddening to know that we are not being able to host a single tournament in Khadki, which once hosted several national level tournaments in the past. Hockey is in the blood of ‘Khadkiyans’ and any tournament attracts a large crowd. Unfortunately that’s history now,” said national umpire and local organiser Sreedharan Thamba.
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Hockey stadium in Chikhalwadi is a classic example.
Built in 2008, the 21,200 square metre stadium with a spectator capacity of 1,000 was expected to be an ideal venue for the local hockey enthusiasts. Teams like Rovers Sports Academy, Railway Police and Super XI would have benefited hugely from the improvement and the stadium would have become a popular venue for local and state-level tournaments.
Unfortunately, the beautiful stadium has turned into a hotspot for liquor parties and gambling. Two years later, Rs 3.25 crores were spent for renovation, but nothing has changed . The PMC sanctioned a nominal amount and a security team to guard the stadium, but the situation remains the same.
Even the Hockey Maharashtra’s attempts to improve the ground have proved fruitless.
Hockey Maharashtra general secretary Manoj Bhore had approached the PMC officials for conducting a tournament at the ground and was ready to spend on the initial improvement work, but the officials paid no heed to the request and Hockey Maharashtra shifted their venue to Balewadi.
“PMC have already spent several crores on the ground, but it has gone down the drain. The ground is in a prime location and would benefit the local players if we explore its potential. We are currently having talks with astroturf companies and they have given their estimate. Fortunately, the local corporates are coming forward and are ready to help the ground named after Babasaheb Ambedkar as they are celebrating the 125th birth anniversary year of Ambedkar,” said Bhore.
Khadki Cantonment Board (KCB) stadium shares the same story. After spending almost Rs1.25 crores, KCB inaugurated the stadium in 2015. Even the proposal to lay austroturf was sent to the state government, which would require another Rs 5 crore. But, the stadium is nowhere near a tournament venue.
“We kept following up on the ground for almost 25 years. When it was finally built and inaugurated by the then Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Chavan, we were immensely happy. However, within a few months, KCB locked down the stadium and since then it’s of no use. It would have been a great venue to train and host tournaments, but we are now forced to train at the Elphinstone road ground, and one year ago we hosted a hockey tournament on the football ground in Range Hills,” said Williams D’souza, a former national player and coach of Priyadarshini Club.
Due to the overuse of the ground for hosting public events, the venue has now turned into a garbage pit, with temporary toilets dug up at the sides of the ground. The gallery wall is broken and neighbouring kids scale the wall and play cricket on the ground and it becomes the perfect venue for groups of people quaffing alcohol in the night.
“The proposal to lay austroturf was sent to KCB, but the army personnel put up an objection as they were under the impression that the ground comes under their area.We have clarified their misunderstanding and in the near future, we might get an austro-turf there too. We would be needing ₹10 crores for the development of these two grounds,” Bhore added.
Railway Police Ground in Khadki is well-maintained, but the Aga Khan Trophy in 2006 was the last tournament to be played on the ground. It is used exclusively for police games and is given only to police teams. Private organisers are charged exorbitant amounts which are not affordable.
The Ammunition Factory ground in Khadki also faces a similar dilemma. The ground was a popular venue for national level tournaments featuring the best Indian hockey players, but is closed down now.
A source on the condition of anonymity, said that the defence ministry had issued an order to use the ground only for its services but the abandoned ground is now in a state of ruin.