Hockey development at stake

Seram Neken *

Olympians and world cuppers other than a host of state players could well be groomed in Manipur when there was not a single Astro-Turf Hockey field in the state. Now, even as there is a well-equipped Hockey Stadium at the Khuman Lampak Sports Complex, the quality and performance of its players have remarkably diminished in Manipur.

It has been around five years that no state player is able to join the national team. May be due to lethargic attitude of the sports department, Manipur has not represented in the annual national school games (also known as Autumn Meet) for under-17 and under-19 players for the last few years. State Hockey team has not been sent to participate in the annual rural sports meet and national women's festival (Hockey).

The PETs (physical education trainers) in each and every school have remained only in name. During inter-school games, players are hired from local associations. That means students are not really trained, the responsibility of which lies with the PETs. Inter-college Hockey tournaments to select players for university level competitions have not been organised for long.

Hockey could have produced at least two Olympians and many other world cuppers from Manipur in the past few decades. P Nilkomol Singh and Ksh Thoiba Singh of Manipur participated in the Olympic Games - 1982 (Los Angeles) and 1988 (Seoul) respectively as Indian Hockey squad.

Two women Hockey players Tingongleima Devi and Surjalata Devi received Arjuna Awards in honour of their excellent performances in Hockey, which is the national game of India. L. Tiken Singh, M. Kulajit Meitei and many others have taken part in the world cup Hockey and other international tournaments.

More than 300 state players including girls have so far got jobs in different agencies outside and inside the state. Indian Railways, Indian Airlines, Food Corporation of India, Indian Army, ONGC, Sports Authority of India, state sports department and state police are main recruiters of Hockey players. Hockey indeed is suitable to the Manipuris. However, the future of Hockey players of the state is at stake due to controversies over organizational ownership coupled with negligence of the sports department.

An accident in the smooth-go of the global Hockey movement has unfortunately hindered the progress of Hockey in India, and Manipur too has been affected. There are at present two parallel bodies of the game, both claiming as genuine apex organisations. The public as well as the guardians of the players are confused as to what is 'Manipur Hockey' and what is 'Hockey Manipur'.

The global principle of "One-Game One-Body" initiated by International Hockey Federation known as Federation Internationale De Hockey (FIH) compelled the Indian Women Hockey Federation and Indian Hockey Federation to merge as one apex body to form 'Hockey India' as the only national body of the Game. Consequently, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) directed the Manipur Olympic Association (MOA) to proceed for formation of an apex state body by de-affiliating the Manipur Hockey Association and Manipur Women's Hockey Association. Thus, the 'Manipur Hockey' was formed with endorsement of MOA, and the 'Hockey India' has given due affiliation to the 'Manipur Hockey'.

On the other hand, the 'Hockey Manipur' claimed to be formed by merging the erstwhile Manipur Hockey Association and Manipur Women's Hockey Association is also performing its routine activities towards development of the games in Manipur. It has challenged MOA's process of de-affiliation of the former organisations and registration of the 'Manipur Hockey'.

Amidst controversies, the two organisations have been working in their own ways for the last one year. Notwithstanding the status of their tussle, most unfortunate thing is that the various local clubs, unions and associations have been caught in the polarization of the two parallel bodies.

It is reported that those players or teams which are affiliated to one body do not participate in tournaments/ championships organised by the other. One time famous COSMO Wangkhei, Hockey Union Khurai, Manipur Police Team, YCCIC Ahallup, Meira Bashikhong, SASA Charangpat etc play under the banner of Hockey Manipur while SEYO Singjamei, Khongman Students Club, NYC, AMHA, CRAU, PHAM, ESU, THAI etc do take part in tournaments under the Manipur Hockey. Polarization of the two bodies has so far affected the psyche and spirit of the players as well as guardians.

Apart from organizational matters, the state youth affairs and sports department seems to be also negligent towards this sports event. The Astro-turf laid in the Khuman lampak sports complex has not been maintained upto the standards. The Grass ground adjacent to the Hockey stadium which was meant as practice ground is also not in good standards and not usable for the purpose.

The PETs in each school in the state remain only a nameshake post in the education department, as they hardly produce hockey players. There is potential for improvement of this sports discipline even in the hills as tribal communities in Chandel, Churachandpur and Ukhrul once demonstrated their interests in Hockey decades ago.

The Grass playgrounds lying in Imphal east and Imphal west at Akampat (SEYO) and Takyel (CRAU) respectively need to be improved as standard practice grounds. The Grass ground beside the Astro-turf stadium is also badly required to be readily offered to practicing players. It is time government materialized the age-old plan for an Astro-turf ground in SAI complex Takyel.

If possible, every district of the state may be provided at least a standard grass ground for Hockey practice, if not an Astro-turf field.

All the potentialities of Hockey development cannot be materialized unless the organizers and sympathizers of the games in Manipur stand in unison for a bright future. The sports-loving people of the state acknowledge the contributions made by the well wishers and organizers who are presently in the two bodies.

But for their seasoned unselfish sacrifices, the state Hockey players could make their excellence felt in the global arena. It is well established that people in both sides have dedicated their possessions, energy and mind without selfishness for a long time for the love of this game.

So, the public mindset humbly appeals to the concerned to put an end to the controversies for the sake of the game and for the sake of the future players.

* Seram Neken ( a regular columnist for Hueiyen Lanpao) is a winner of RK Maipaksana Journalist Fellowship 2010 . This article was webcasted on November 01, 2010.

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