AS FORMER Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) president KPS Gill breathed his last in New Delhi on Friday evening, it was also a time for Chandigarh hockey players, who had played for the national team during Gill’s tenure, to remember the 82-year-old hockey administrator. Gill, who was president of the IHF from 1994 till its suspension from the Indian Olympic Association in 2008, was also instrumental in bringing Indian hockey’s first league PHL to Chandigarh and also guided Chandigarh and Punjab players during his tenure.
“When we won the Junior World Cup in Australia in 2001, he made sure that he talked with us after the win. He also announced a cash award of Rs 1 lakh for each member of the junior team which was not done earlier. In 2006, during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, I twisted my ankle. For the next two days, he would call the coach and me to inquire about my injury. When my fellow drag-flicker Sandeep Singh suffered a bullet injury on Shatabdi in 2006, he made sure that Sandeep got the best treatment in PGI, Chandigarh. He was a passionate administrator and he showed that,” said Rajpal Singh, former Indian hockey captain and member of the 2001 Junior World Cup winning team.
For goalkeeper Baljit Singh Dadhwal, it was a letter to Gill after his tremendous performance in the nationals and other domestic tournaments from 2003 to 2006 that helped him find a place in the team for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. Dadhwal had suffered a shoulder injury in 2002, but he was being ignored for national duty till 2006.
“I had been doing well at the national level. But my name was being ignored. So, I wrote a letter to Mr Gill and he saw my performance and later, I was picked for the Melbourne CWG team. When I was adjudged best goalkeeper of the Asia Cup in 2007, he was very happy and told me that it was a great achievement for a goalkeeper from Punjab. He would also ask us for our inputs for the national camps,” recalled Dadhwal.
Hockey Chandigarh’s secretary-general Anil Vohra, too, had worked with Gill and believes that launching PHL was Gill’s way of popularising Indian hockey. “He thought about a league in hockey and much before the IPL, launched a hockey league in India. He wanted Indian players to train and play with the world’s best players. He would also organise national camps in Chandigarh and always asked about the well-being of Punjab and Chandigarh players. It is a big loss for Indian hockey,” said Vohra.