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When the sleeping Giant Awakes…..
23 Nov 2007 11:55

© FIH / Vino John

They say that when the sleeping giant awakes the world will feel the tremors.  As an economic power that was the case with China and since that sleeping giant awoke a few years ago the world is starting to measure the impact on the Richter scale!

By Steve Jaspan

In a hockey context the sleeping giant is India, where hockey is actually the national game of a population of close to 1,1 billion people.  India is seriously under performing as a hockey nation and for most people the reasons are abundantly clear.  Nor are they significantly different from countless underperforming sports bodies throughout the world.  That topic has been discussed at length by many, including me on previous occasions.  However, one has to ask why the IOC and FIH with the co-operation of the Sports Authorities in India has embarked on a major project to revitalize Indian Hockey.

Hark back to the glory days when India dominated world hockey and collected Olympic Medals freely.  Dyan Chand and his team mates were the giants of world hockey and became legendary figures in India.  The nation was transfixed, mesmerized by the brilliance of their team.  India’s cricket team’s exploits were virtually submerged under the euphoria surrounding hockey.  Even after Partition, in 1947, despite the virtual division of the hockey strength, the brilliance and talent of the Indian team still captured the nation’s attention.

Sadly in recent years there have only been odd successes such as a junior World Cup triumph in Milton Keynes, England, two Asian Cup triumphs and wonderfully, the Women’s team’s gold in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.  However, for some 40 years, victory at the Olympics or World Cup has eluded the slumbering hockey giant.

In the meantime the Indian cricket teams exploits, especially winning the World T20 Cricket Cup, has created a media frenzy.  India and Asia have become premier television markets with massive audiences.  Sonia Mirza, Leander Paes, Mahesh Buphati have raised the profile of tennis in India.  Top golfers such as Jeev Milka Singh have awakened India’s golf appetite.

So there is good sense in assisting Indian hockey to restore its glory and have India and the world once again focus on Indian Hockey and the brilliance of its players.  It is so important for World hockey that India and Pakistan challenge the dominance of Australia, Netherlands and Germany in men’s hockey and the Indian women’s hockey team challenges the World Top 6.

The announcement that Ric Charlesworth, one of the most successful players and coaches in the history of hockey and an incredibly innovative and incisive thinker, will help with the restructuring of Indian hockey and to facilitate coaching programmes to unlock the potential is exciting news.

The granting of the 2023 Men’s World Cup to New Delhi subject to compliance with certain criteria is a catalyst and important target – a beacon – along the road to the renaissance.  This will be followed a few months later by the Commonwealth Games at the newly constructed National Stadium in the same city. This will give added impetus to the process.

The hockey world will watch developments with keen interest and anyone who loves the game must be hoping the initiatives prove successful!

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