WITHOUT SOUNDING CLICHED, the year 2016 has a lot to look forward to, for Indian hockey. The main reason one can predict is the Olympic Games being held this year and the very real possibility for the Indian hockey teams to perform well.
The biggest goal of securing Olympic qualification was the headlining moment last year, especially for the women’s team that qualified for the Olympics for the first time in 36 years since the 1980 Moscow Olympics. A lot of credit should be given to Chief Coach Neil Hawgood and his support team under whom the entire pool of women’s players have got a new spring in their feet.
The Colts too have just made this year a highly anticipated one with some incredible performances last year and the Junior World Cup to look forward to at the end of 2016. In October 2015, the Indian Colts showed immense character in securing the runners-up spot in the 5th Sultan Johor Cup. What proved their mettle further was the historic win against Pakistan in the finals of the 8th Junior Men’s Asia Cup.
The national men’s team weren’t too far behind either. In December 2015 displaying incredible grit and hunger to succeed, the team clinched a Bronze medal at the Hockey World League Finals. That edge-of-the-seat thrilling win against Netherlands to clinch the bronze, the first medal in an FIH World Level event in 32 years, was a priceless moment and will now to etched in the history books of the sport in India.
The emergence of some great talent from the Hockey India League (HIL) has now become a happy problem for us considering there are important tournaments to play, leading to the Olympics in August. A total of twenty eight players are undergoing rigorous training under the watchful eyes of Oltmans and his team at the SAI Centre in Bengaluru.
We strongly believed that the sweat and blood that every player and support staff has shed for bringing the teams to where they are should be recognized and appreciated. Acknowledging excellence at all levels, the Annual Hockey India 2nd Annual Awards carried a total prize money of over INR 2.00 Crores.
Besides the main categories, special focus was laid this year on giving recognition to rising talent and team achievements during 2015.
The men’s team custodian P.R. Sreejesh and Women defender Deepika won the Hockey India Dhruv Batra Player of the Year
Award in Men’s and Women’s category respectively. The two were presented a cheque of Rs. 25.00 lakhs each. The Hockey India Major Dhyan Chand Lifetime Achievement Award carrying a cash prize of Rs. 30.00 lakhs and a trophy was awarded to the Late. Capt. Shankar Laxman in recognition of his accomplishments and contributions to our national sport.
Hockey India Asunta Lakra Upcoming Player of the Year Award (Women U-21) was presented to Preeti Dubey, and the Hockey India Jugraj Singh Upcoming Player of the Year Award (Men U-21) was presented to Harjeet Singh with each of them receiving a cash prize of Rs. 10.00 Lakhs. Giving due respect, we felicitated the Indian women's team and the support staff with a cash reward of Rs.1.00 lakh each for the historic Olympic qualification.
For many players, these awards are a source of motivation to get better every passing year. Such recognition pushes them to believe that hockey indeed is a sustainable career option. The players are our biggest influencers, and a lot of upcoming talents take their words as gospel truth. We are only trying to ensure that a talent isn’t lost because of insecurities and hardships of surviving in the sport.
Ultimately, the efforts of everyone involved with Hockey India are to maximize our national teams potential to win a deserving place on the world stage.
Let’s look forward to the year 2016 mark the beginning of bigger, bolder and better times for Indian Hockey.