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Vol. XXXI No. 12, October 1-15, 2021

Reviving an interest in our National Game

by M. Fazal

India’s national game Hockey is enjoying renewed public interest following the Tokyo Olympics, where the men’s team bagged a bronze medal and the women’s team placed an admirable fourth.

In the 70s and 80s, Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras) was the cradle of Hockey in the South along with Jalandhar (Punjab) in the North. Many sportsmen from the region went on to represent India in the Olympic and Asian Games.

The Indian hockey men’s team and the women’s team at the Tokyo Olympics. Picture Courtesy: The Hindu.

Muneer Sait, Bhaskaran Rajasekaran, Kadiresan, Mohammed Riaz, Osman Khan (who passed away recently) and Michael Nair were some of the prominent players who graced TN Hockey. Anglo Indians like Michal Carr formed the crux of the TN Team before they migrated to Australia later.

Abdul Jabbar, V.J. Peter and many others were wonderful forwards of Madras, in those times. Madrasa-e Azam School behind the Q.M. College for Women in Anna Salai – now in shambles – was the nub of TN Hockey. The coach Basheer Bhai took a personal interest in his team and played with the boys to instill confidence in them. All the prominent players like Muneer Sait, Riaz Jabhar and Osman Khan were the products of Basheer Bhai’s training. The St. Thomas Mount Police Ground in Butt Road was the other Hockey hub from where players like Peter Baskaran and Rajasekaran emerged.

I myself took an interest in Hockey and learnt the basics from Basheer Bhai when I was in school. It was rather cumbersome to travel by bus to Anna Salai after school and return to Saidapet to continue my studies; exhausted by the schedule, I had to give up the coaching after a mere 2 months. I went instead to St. Thomas Mount where my relative Jehongar (SBI) used to practice. The training I received there as well as the exposure I had to the game played by senior players made me eligible to play for the school hockey team as a goal-keeper. In college, I was captain of the Hockey team; I was also the stand-by for the Madras Varsity teams under Ravikumar (MCC) who was known for his dribbling skills. We also had a First Division Team, ‘Madras Blues’, in the M.H.A. League.

At that time cricket was not as popular as it is today; it was hockey and football that students in schools and colleges drifted to. I am glad that people have started showing interest in Hockey once again, signalling a revival of our national game.

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