After the happy home-coming parties for India’s bronze medal winning junior women’s team end,Hockey India will wake up to a tough challenge that faces them. All sports achievers have repeatedly said that if reaching the podium is tough,staying there is tougher. There is a reason for this note of caution.
Indian hockey,in the past,has seen several highs. But in most cases the phenomenal rise is quickly followed by a sharp dip in results. In case the officials don’t learn from their mistakes,the Class of 2013 too might not live up to their promise.
After the women’s team won the 2002 Commonwealth Games,it was said that Indian hockey had turned the corner. The Golden Girls were on national television,feted with cheques and promoted by their employers. But the team faded into oblivion and the state of women’s hockey went from bad to worse. Since that famous 2002 triumph,Indian women have won just a silver and a bronze in Commonwealth or Asian Games. A movie was made on the Manchester squad but what wasn’t documented was how the gold faded.
Women players have often complained of receiving stepmotherly treatment compared to their male counterparts. That may have changed over the last few years but still the scene is far from ideal. India were offered to host the women’s junior World Cup in November this year just before the men’s event,which will take place in New Delhi in December. But the idea was rejected by Hockey India,who either severely undermined the girls’ abilities or were simply not interested to host a joint event,preferring the junior men’s tournament.
The number of competitions for women is just a fraction of what the men get. Domestically,apart from the national championships,there are practically no tournaments for women. Jobs for women hockey players too are at a premium roughly 60 per cent of the players are employed by the Railways. With no motivation to take up women’s hockey,the talent pool is shrinking rapidly.
Mihir is a senior correspondent based in Mumbai