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News for 29 December 2018

All the news for Saturday 29 December 2018

Kookaburras Highlights In 2018

Ben Somerford

The Kookaburras held the number one world ranking for 12 months but ended 2018 in second spot following an amazing calendar year where the side won numerous major honours.

Australia’s 2018 included winning a sixth consecutive Commmonwealth Games gold medal, a 15th overall Champions Trophy and a 10th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

Unfortunately the Kookaburras finished the year missing out on a third consecutive World Cup title, settling for bronze, seeing Belgium leapfrog Australia into the top ranking.

That conclusion to 2018 sets up next year’s inaugural FIH Pro League which starts in Australia in February where some of the best international teams in the world will meet on a home-and-away basis. Matches will be played in Melbourne, Hobart, Perth and Sydney – purchase your Pro League tickets here.

Dutch Test series thriller

The Kookaburras took on Hockey heavyweights Netherlands in a four-match Test series in Narrogin and Perth in January and February which ended with both sides claiming one win each and two draws. The series concluded with a thrilling 6-1 Australia win over the Dutch at Perth Hockey Stadium with Lachlan Sharp netting his maiden international goals. The entertaining series included two 3-3 draws, a 3-2 Dutch win and Australia’s 6-1 victory in the final Test. Jake Whetton, Tyler Lovell and Tristan White reached career milestones during the series too.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup triumph

Australia’s Commonwealth Games preparations took them to Malaysia against some top opposition, including Argentina and England, for the annual Sultan Azlan Shah Cup which they lifted with a perfect campaign where they won every game, scoring 20 goals and conceding only seven. The Kookaburras saluted in the final with a 2-1 triumph over England thanks to goals from Blake Govers and Sharp. Daniel Beale impressed and won the Player of the Tournament gong too.

Commonwealth Games gold medal

The Kookaburras sent off retiring captain Mark Knowles in the perfect style, with a Commonwealth Games gold medal on the Gold Coast. Knowles missed a penalty stroke in the decider but it didn’t sour a sweet victory, defeating New Zealand 2-0 in the final thanks to goals from Aaron Kleinschmidt and Matt Dawson, who suffered a scary eye injury in the lead-up to the tournament. Trent Mitton starred with six goals as Australia won every game on their way to glory, with Australia’s Games flag bearer Knowles finishing up with 324 caps and 30 goals.

Champions Trophy success

Despite Knowles’ retirement, Australia showed they deserved their number one status by taking out the Champions Trophy in the Netherlands in June and July. The Kookaburras’ campaign wasn’t perfect but they did enough to top the standings with three wins, one draw and one loss. Blake Govers scored in the 1-1 draw against India in the final, before Tyler Lovell’s heroics and Jeremy Edwards’ cool finish sealed a shootout victory. Aran Zalewski, who reached his 150th cap during the series, was named Player of the Tournament, while Jake Harvie claimed Rising Star.

World Cup bronze medal

Australia headed for Bhubaneswar in November with the burden of their top ranking and back-to-back World Cup titles, but didn’t show any signs of letting the expectations get to them with a superb pool phase with three wins from three games. The Kookaburras eased past France in the quarter-finals, before a heart-breaking shootout loss to the Dutch in the semi-finals after improbably fighting back from 2-0 down with Eddie Ockenden’s leveller with 26 seconds left. Australia brushed off their disappointment to emphatically crush England 8-1 for bronze, with Blake Govers finishing as equal top scorer with seven goals.

Hockey Australia media release

Splurging, what about gains and legacy

K. Arumugam

The World Cup is over. A million eyeballs watched 20 days of action in Bhubaneswar. The extravaganza witnessed new happenings as Hockey India and the provincial government of Odisha combined well, pooling resources and wisdom to stage hockey’s premier event in a remarkable way.

The manner in which the event was organized impressed all. But it was all possible largely because crores of rupees were pumped in to make the World Cup a big-ticket event.

The last six months have witnessed a chain of events that culminated in the grand finale on December 16 at the Kalinga Stadium where Belgium created history by lifting their maiden title after beating The Netherlands in a shootout.

The logo release, The trophy unveiling, three-hour opening ceremony, promotion event involving Bollywood bigwigs in a non-host city, sports literature festival, publication of Souvenir books, exhibition matches involving living legends, felicitation of the 1975 World Cup winning team members, the invitation and hospitality for ambassadors of the visiting teams et al were meticulously planned and executed. undefined

The promotion of the World Cup was simply awe-inspiring. Sports stars from other sports were invited to regale the crowd and boost media coverage. Sachin Tendulkar, the cricketing legend graced the final. His former teammates Anil Kumle and Virendera Sehwag also made appearances in earlier matches.

Wrestling icon Sushil Kumar, shooting sensation Gagan Narang and tennis legend Leander Paes were other prominent sportspersons at the venue on invitation as well.

It added colour and enhanced the visibility of the event even though it may have cost the organizers dear. According to reports, some of the celebrities were flown in on chartered flights! Not to mention appearance money that some stars may well have commanded.

(PIC: Billboard highlights one-district producing 50+ international hockey players in Odisha)

Now that the show is over, it’s time to introspect. To look back and look forward through all the buzz, hype and hoopla that the event generated. Has the World Cup left behind a legacy?

Firstly, it seems the capacity 15,000 crowd that thronged the stadium daily was the result of the wide promotion and ensuing publicity the event received.

Many of the thousands who turned up were first-timers to a hockey match. Those who celebrated a “goal” even if the ball was hit from way outside the D!

Would these new-found fans of the game stay connected to the game given that there is little or no hockey activity in the city?

It’s a pity that the refurbished and enlarged stadium with its new artificial pitches may not see national level activity in the near future – not even age group national champions.

Neither are there any all India tournaments set in Bhubaneswar. The Mango Cup, held annually in the past, is now defunct.

And now, the very basic question: How many schools in Bhubaneswar play hockey to justify notions that the city is a hub for the game?

In the run-up to the World Cup that a leading newspaper and the Odisha Government jointly organized an inter-school competition. Just four schools participated!

Bhubaneswar city has about 200 schools out of which just five or six field hockey teams and only a couple of colleges patronize the sport.

Now we can understand why not many 'clinics' with schools were not held when every team had at least 3,4 days gap between matches at least twice.

We saw only a solitary occasion of a foreign team going to a public school during the World Cup.

For that mater, just a lone district in Odisha – Sundergarh -- produces hockey players with the rest of the state contributing almost zero from the remaining 29 districts.

That Sundergarh boasts of producing 50 international players is praise worthy but for hockey to be a sport followed by a far wider audience the situation is worrisome.

After all, the sport is still restricted to a lone district and to a lone ethnic and reglious group. Bhubaneswar may have hosted a great World Cup but the sport has not penetrated the city and it’s a point to ponder.

The sport should spread like it has in Punjab and Haryana if Odisha wants to acquire the tag of hockey capital of the country.

And there’s a long way to go.

The subject of hockey’s little or no presence in educational institutions was broached by this writer with many officials and former players in Odisha. Not many knew the way forward.

Unless and until more schools and colleges take up hockey as a spin-off benefit of the interest generated by the World Cup, the future of the sport in Odisha appears bleak.

The World Cup, enjoyable as it was, wasn’t memorable from the Indian supporters point of view. India bowed out in the quarterfinals, falling to a formidable Netherlands. A podium finish would be etched in the memory but that was not to be.

(PIC: A game in progress in a small lane in Bhubaneswar)

And, with the absence of a road map to effectively utilize the awareness and interest created in the city and the state in the last few months, the gains may all have been wasted.

Hockey, many claim, is way of life in Odisha. The above observations render it a cliché, a refrain without rationale.

But there’s yet time to turn it around and indeed make hockey a way of life in this land.

Dilip Tirkey, whose rise in hockey and later in public life as well, augurs well for the sport. The celebrated former India player speaks of laying a dozen turfs in Sundargarh in the days to come. But once again, it’s all about one district. What’s needed is that hockey be played in every block, tehsil and district level.

And it shouldn’t be confined to the Tirkeys, Lakras, Ekkas, Minz and Orams. It should spread to the Rauls, Patnaiks, Panis, Panigrahis, Beheras, Doras, Deos, Gaudas, Jenas, Mahantys, Mahabatras, Naiks, Ojhas, Rauts and Rays.

The Sahoos and Swains should also pick up the stick and wouldn’t that give width and depth to hockey in Odisha?

The state used to contribute more players to the national teams in the recent past than at present. Isn’t that a sign that the sport in Odisha is not at its best even now?

If Odisha wants to really head the Indian hockey provenance, it’s now time to act, spread the game, take it to schools and colleges the length and breadth of the state.

Only then can we reap benefit from the enormous expenditure of a single event.

In the run up, Odisha Govt signed many MoUs with many organizations, we hope the effort result in ushering the state as a sports conscious one and a sports-driven society.


UiTM in a tight spot before league starts

By Aftar Singh

KUALA LUMPUR: Things are not looking rosy for Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) ahead of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) starting on Jan 3.

Team manager Ahmad Tarmizy Mohammed has been quarantined at home for influenza over the last few days while their utility foreign player Rajendra Muni Krishna has not received clearance from Hockey India.

UiTM gained promotion to play in the Premier Division after emerging as double champions – league and overall in Division One this year.

UiTM coach Meor Mohd Shahril Saarani said Tarmizy, who has been the team manager since 2010, was quarantined as they did not want the virus to spread.

“I really don’t know how long he will be quarantined,” said Meor.

“We’re also unsure of getting the services of Rajendra. We need him as he is a versatile player.”

UiTM will bank on three other foreign players – forward Farhad Ahmed Shetul and midfielder Rashel Mahmud from Bangladesh and Japanese striker Fukuda Kentaro. The trio will arrive on Jan 7.

“We don’t have national players in the team. Our team are made up of mostly university players from UiTM, UKM (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) and UPM (Universiti Putra Malaysia),” added Meor.

“The other teams in the league are strong as they have the services of national players as well as good import players.

“We are not title contenders but we hope to finish top six in the league. It’s a challenge but I’ve faith in my players.”

The other teams in the fray are Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL), Terengganu, Tenaga Nasional, Maybank, Nur Insafi and TNB-Thunderbolt.

UiTM face former champions Maybank in the Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup on Jan 3.

The Star of Malaysia

Rathore for return of hockey to natural turf

Sports Minister advocates the return of hockey to natural turf

Vijay Lokapally

Leafing through: Rajyavardhan Rathore at the launch of hockey legend Dhyan Chand’s autobiography GOAL published by Sportstar. Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Hailing hockey legend Dhyan Chand as an iconic international sportsman, Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore hoped the game would benefit from the rich legacy left by past stalwarts.

Releasing GOAL, an autobiography of Dhyan Chand, at his office here on Friday, Rathore said, “Every sport should have a place under the sun. People have regionalistic likings as well for sports. And then there are multiple sports that have a pan-India appeal. Rather than being enforced by a government directive, something like sports should be left to the fans to decide.” He was giving his opinion on should hockey be declared the national game.

GOAL, published by Sportstar, is a 261-page book where Dhyan Chand takes the reader on his hockey journey. Apart from memories of his playing days, the legendary forward gives important tips on the technicality of hockey. An added feature of the book is an emotional tribute by 1975 World Cup-winner Ashok Kumar in a chapter titled ‘Remembering Dhyan Chand, The Father.’

Speaking on his association with hockey, Rathore said, “I have played all sports. I have played hockey as well very actively during my school and military academy days. I loved the game. It’s a very fast game. I think it’s one of the fastest field games apart from ice-hockey. Today it requires tremendous strength, stamina and strategy. Of course, the skill levels also need to be very high.”

Advocating a return to natural turf for hockey, Rathore observed, “Because India is growing as an economy power and because of the large number of fans, I would want the international federation, which Mr. (NK) Batra is the president, to start leagues on natural turfs to save water.

“The astro turfs requires so much water for maintenance and it can prove a very expensive affair. Natural turfs can be set up in every district of the country. Natural turf is something that hockey can return to. Or, develop turfs that don’t need water. These are two imperatives for hockey to grow in India.”

On the forthcoming edition of ‘Khelo India’ to be held in Pune early next year, Rathore said, “It’s a very revolutionary and visionary step by the Prime Minister. It has the capacity to create a massive ground movement and upsurge of talent.

“It’s a very high standard of platform available for school children to perform at where truly two things should matter — studying and playing.

“They don’t have the pressures of a job. At school level, if they can enhance their performance and come up to the regional and national level, we will lift them up to the international level by selecting a 1000 athletes every year.”

The Hindu

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