To be eligible for tournaments, India’s hockey players will first have to download the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile phones. The sport’s governing body, Hockey India, has made it mandatory for all players and staff of its member associations to download the government’s Covid-19 tracker, which has come under scrutiny for privacy-related issues.
In its 20-page guidelines to state units, Hockey India has said the app will be used to check the participant’s health status and only those who are ‘safe’ or ‘low risk’ will be allowed to take part in tournaments, when they begin post-pandemic.’
“Before leaving for the upcoming event, all players and staff must review their status on ‘Aarogyasetu’ and travel only when the app shows ‘safe’ or ‘low risk’ status,” the document reads. “Member Units are advised that in case the App shows a message that a person has a moderate or high risk calculated on the basis of Bluetooth proximity, he/she should not travel to attend the event.”
Other instructions handed out by Hockey India for the domestic teams to restart training include: playing five-a-side hockey matches on a full-length pitch; training in small groups, with the same set of players at all times; arriving at the ground dressed and ready to train; cleaning and sanitising the balls; and identifying areas to isolate a person who shows symptoms.
Although there is no direct reference, the guideline provides a glimpse into how national team training could look like in the near future. The women and men’s national teams have been locked inside the Sports Authority of India’s Bangalore centre since mid-March.
The players from the two teams and the respective coaching staff will be e-meeting sports minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday. During the meeting, the players are expected to request Rijiju to allow the resumption of training, which has been halted after the enforcement of the nationwide lockdown on March 25, at the earliest.
Rijiju has said there will be a phase-wise resumption of sports, and priority will first be given to the athletes who have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics with those already inside the SAI centres getting first preference.
While Hockey India await the sports ministry’s advice on the resumption of domestic activities, they have told the state units that in the initial phase, training should be done with limited players on the field to ensure social distancing is maintained on the field. It has also been recommended that “organizers should look at having Hockey 5s on the full length pitch”.
“Full pitch could be divided into 4 parts, and maximum of 3-4 players could use each part at a time with minimum of 1 meter space between each player,” the guideline reads. “The same set of 3-4 player(s) should train together at all times to avoid any spread of infection if incase anyone is affected at some point.”
It further adds that only players and staff will be allowed at the training ground during practice, and even groundsmen will not be allowed to be around during a session. The players have also been advised to carry their own water bottles to the ground, fill it themselves and ensure no one else touches it. They have also been told to minimize the use of changing rooms and bathrooms at the ground and arrive for training in their kits.
The players will also have to refrain from the use of high-fives and fist-bumps, and ‘avoid physical contact other than in normal play.’ In the post-pandemic scenario, the guidelines state that ‘spectators should ideally be limited.’ “Ideally arrange seats so that participants and spectators are at least one meter apart,” the guidelines state. “Ideally spectator seating should be arranged in a way that there’s 1 meter distance between each spectator.”