A number of Indians might not know that Hockey is our National Sports. Well, some of you may know, but what about the legacy that Indian Hockey holds?
Indian Hockey team has won 8 Gold Medals, 1 Silver medal and 2 Bronze medals in Olympics, which are the most number of Olympic medals by any team in the world. They were World Cup Champions in 1975 as well. Indian Hockey also had a 30 matches undefeated streak from 1928 to 1960 Olympics, a feat that no other team in the world has ever achieved. That era is also known as “Golden Era” of Hockey India. It was the domination of the Indian Hockey over the world that made it as the national sports of India. But those days of domination are part of history now. We have not been able to win an Olympic medal since 1980 Moscow Olympics. The condition was worse in the 2008 Beijing Olympics where we could not only qualify for the games.
In Asia continent, Indian Hockey team has always been a supreme power and considered as Gold medal favorites in most of the continental events, but in 2018 Asia Cup they could manage a bronze medal losing to Malaysia in semi-finals.
Now, the million dollar question is: What are the reasons behind this downfall?
May grounds be a reason?
Till 1970, Hockey used to be played on grass grounds, but they changed to Astroturf grounds with European countries’ influence. Those days, India hardly had any Astroturf grounds making them difficult to cope up with European countries. Pakistan also used to be one of the strongest team in this sport but they also lost their charm with this turf change. And once you train in a race, it is difficult to accelerate and win it as the others do not give any chance of error. Indian Hockey is also in the similar situation where their counterparts have gone way too ahead in the competition.
With time, Indians have also opted for Astroturf Grounds but they are very less in numbers. Our young breed doesn’t get enough practice on Astroturf. Though they try to match up the standards of other countries due to less exposure to Astroturf in their initial ages.
A country where nearly every state has a cricket ground does not have an adequate number of grounds for their national sports where they can host international tournaments. For organizing big events like Champions Trophy or World Cup, we mostly rely on Delhi’s Major Dhyanchand Stadium or Orissa’s Kalinga Stadium.
But we are working…
Lucrative Hockey India League, which was inspired by Indian Premier League and founded in 2013, has given enough exposure to Indian players. It has given them a chance to play with some of the biggest players of European countries. But even then, at the international level, we are yet to prove a point. Teams like Belgium, England, Argentina, and Malaysia have improved with time and they are giving stiff competitions to big teams like Holland, Germany, and Australia.
Tokyo Olympics, 2020 is still two years away from now. Though a lot of hard work is required to rejuvenate Indian Hockey. Still, this is the best time for Hockey India to bring back their glory days and let people believe in their so-called, “National Game”.