In the age of artificial turf, Delhi U-15 hockey team practice on grass
Despite the ‘presence’ of five artificial pitches in Delhi, children are preparing for the Hockey India (HI) National Championships (A division) on grass.Updated: May 02, 2019, 23:13 IST
Hockey discarded natural grass decades ago but a visit to Hockey Delhi’s sub-junior (U-15) camp at the Jamia Millia Islamia university ground is proof enough that youngsters in the capital continue to be deprived of artificial turf, a basic necessity for the sport.
Despite the ‘presence’ of five artificial pitches in Delhi, children are preparing for the Hockey India (HI) National Championships (A division), commencing in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, from May 11, on grass.
Reason: The three artificial pitches at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium are under renovation since November 2018 while the Shivaji Stadium turf is “too dangerous to hold Hockey India sanctioned tournaments”. Hockey Delhi does not have the funds to organise the camp at the Yamuna Sports Complex, as it charges ~2000 per session.
“Their (Yamuna Sports Complex) charges are exorbitant and we don’t have the resources. Besides, they charge Rs 1,200 for watering the turf,” says Mahesh Dayal, secretary, Hockey Delhi.
As per Hockey India’s policy, each member state is entitled to a grant of ~10 lakh for the development of grassroots hockey. But to avail the facility, every affiliate unit has to submit audited accounts. Hockey Delhi has never submitted any details till date.
“State unit also have to furnish an annual report on the conduct of competitions in various age groups besides other hockey-related activities. We have a format and the grant is only given if the state units fulfil the norms,” said HI CEO Elena Norman.
Dayal, however, says HI doesn’t have a policy of giving grants.
Olympian and former India captain Ajitpal Singh says training on grass should be discouraged. “A couple of sessions a week is OK but regular training should be discouraged as ultimately, players have to learn ball-control on a synthetic surface. It doesn’t cost much even if a few sessions are held on whatever few artificial pitches are there in the city. The money is only going into the development of grassroots hockey,” added Singh.
But Dayal says he is providing the “best facilities” to his wards. “HI has banned all hockey tournaments at the Shivaji Stadium (since August 2018) as playing on the unclean surface can cause grievous injuries. Since we are affiliated to the national body, we cannot break the rule,” he added.
With Hockey Delhi unable to “find a suitable venue with artificial turf”, they didn’t conduct the state sub-junior competition and shortlisted the probables on the basis of a makeshift tournament at the Central Secretariat ground near Chanakyapuri. “We organised a weekend tournament and selected the players,” said Dayal.
The players too seemed flustered with the facilities at the Jamia ground.
“I come from a locality on the outskirts of Delhi. I change three buses to reach here and after three hours of commuting one way, I get to play on grass. The camp starts at 3pm and continues till 6pm,” said a camper.
Former national player Jaspal Katoch who is overseeing the camp, says, “I hope HI lifts the ban on Shivaji Stadium. The place is centrally located and easily accessible.”