Monday, December 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India

N C R   S T O R I E S


Air-India academy ó a boon for Indian hockey

New Delhi, December 22
Indian hockey would have been in dire straight had not Air-India stepped forward to set up the National Hockey Academy, in collaboration with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), at the Maj Dhyan Chand National Hockey Stadium in Delhi.

Creating a solid base for hockey to flourish in the country, strictly speaking, is the business of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF). But the IHF has not done much to broaden the base of the game in the country. Instead, the federation seems to be content in enjoying the fruits produced by the SAI-Air India National Hockey Academy in the form of top quality players.

After the dismal performance of the Indian contingent in the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing (China), the Department of Sports constituted a committee, comprising eminent sportspersons and administrators, and officials of the SAI and the National Sports Federations, to draft the National Sports Policy. After lengthy deliberations, the committee, in its report, suggested that establishing national academies for various games was the answer to arrest the declining standard of Indian sports. The concept of the academies was to provide continuous training during the formative years of the young sportspersons, under the guidance of experienced professional coaches, with the aid of modern training equipment.

The Government then convened a meeting of chiefs of major private and public sector business undertakings and requested them to adopt individual sports disciplines, establish academies in which young talent could be groomed.

As an added incentive, jobs could also be offered to those who excel in the chosen discipline.

The then Union Minister for Civil Aviation, the late Madhavrao Scindia, evinced a keen interest at the idea, and was thus born the Air-India National Hockey Academy in 1991. The SAI agreed to provide free accommodation, coaches and training to the trainees on the astro turf at the National Stadium. Air-India was entrusted the job of running the academy on a day-to-day basis. Air India meets the boarding, kit, travel, tournament and education expenses of the trainees. Air-India has tied up with the reputed St Agnes School and the Jamia Millia Islamia University to take care of the education of the hockey trainees.

Director of the Air India Hockey Academy Ramesh Nambiar says, boys in the 15 to 18 years age group are selected by an eminent panel, comprising former Olympians and seasoned administrators, after conducting an all-India basis trials.

Only the meritorious boys are admitted to the academy. The boys are taken in for a period of three years with Air India incurring an expenditure of Rs 5 lakh per boy during the three-year training period. Mr Nambiar says Air India spends about Rs 25 lakh every year for the running of the academy. The Academy, during the past 12 years, has contributed over 50 players to the national pool.

Gagan Ajit Singh and Devesh Chauhan, captain and vice-captain of the Indian junior team who won the Junior World Cup Hockey Championship at Hobart (Australia), are products of the Air India Academy. In fact, six of the Junior World Cup winning squad members, were from the Air India Academy. Four of the players in the Indian team for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games -- Deepak Thakur, Prabhjot Singh, Devesh Chauhan and Gagan Ajit Singh -- were also the trainees of the academy.

Besides taking care of the education of the boys, the Air-India Academy also helps the boys find suitable employment in reputed public sector and Government organisations like Bharat Petroleum, Indian Airlines, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Police, Border Security Force, Railways, Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force, etc.

Twenty-four boys are provided training at the academy at any given time. The selection committee comprising former Olympians Zafar Iqbal, M. K. Kaushik and Ashok Dewan, picked eight boys for the academy after extensive selection trials early this year. Academy coaches A. K. Bansal and Ramesh Pathania have put in a lot of hard work to make it a name to reckon with.

IHF plays very minimal role in the functioning of the academy, though the federation has been gracious enough to give Air India affiliation, which helps the academy gain direct entry into the national championships. The Air India Academy boys displayed their class when they annexed the junior national championship at Bangalore in 1999. All the top guns, who have been associated with Air India like V. K. Verma and Roy Paul, have played constructive roles in the growth and sustenance of the hockey academy. Verma was the first director of the academy when it was established in Delhi over a decade ago.

Besides Air India, the SAI Centres in Bangalore and Lucknow also groom hockey players. Now Punjab National Bank and Punjab and Sind Bank have also ventured into the hockey academy business. But Air India is a class act, no doubt.



Nivia outwit Frontiers
Our Correspondent

New Delhi, December 22
Former league champions Nivia Mughals Sports Club scored a 2-0 fluent victory over Frontiers Club to collect three full points in group-A preliminary league match of the Delhi Soccer Association (DSA)-SAIL Annual Open Clubs Senior Division Football League Championship being played at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here today.

In another group-A crucial match, defending champion Allwyn-Hindustan Club dropped two valuable points against spirited Delhi Police to held them to a goallss draw.

In Mughals and Frontierís encounter, both teams were engaged in goalless draw. Both teams were handicapped in absence of their key players, who were on injured list. On changing ends, Mughals got the better of Frontiers and took the lead in 48th minute when inside-left Inderjit Dhar scored off a cross of D. K. Ghosh 1-0. Inside-right Navin Parmar completed the tally to 2-0 in 60th minute on a rebound came from rivalsí custodian, Nirmal. Mughals have collected 9 points form 5 matches while Frontiers Drew blank from 5 matches.

In another match, star-studded Hindustan Club were unimpressive in their display following lacklustre approach by their lads. Hindustan were playing without their key midfielder Rishi Kapoor while Delhi Police's captain Mahesh Bhist was out following two yellow cards.

Even during the proceedings, Delhi Police were playing with 10 players following marching orders to their defender Jeetender Adhikari by referee S. Saha following serious infringement on rivalsí frontline player. Police's Gautam Ghimiray also received yellow card. Both teams had goal-scoring chances in which Hindustan had an edge when inside-right H. S. Rawat and C. Anddy and Sanjeev Kumar muffed easy chances. Police's custodian Abdul Salam excelled under the bar.


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