Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXIII No. 4, June 1-15, 2023
Tamil Nadu is a bastion of sports development in India and Hockey is one among the many sports that have evolved to international standards here. The State has brought forth talented players from the league, district and state levels to win laurels for the country, from the time the sport was played on natural turf to the present astroturf era. One of the key reasons for Hockey – once the national sport before it was displaced by Cricket – to flourish in sport-loving TN was the emergence of extraordinary talent from the Anglo-Indian community alongside greats such as V. Baskaran and Munir Sait. Anglo-Indians have taken Indian Hockey to the world, playing alongside legends such as Dhyan Chand at the Olympics and other international competitions including the World Cup. The history of Tamil Nadu Hockey too is studded with a constellation of Anglo-Indian stars, whose excellence at the sport is fuelled by natural skill with the stick, superior speed and sheer passion.
The history of Anglo-Indian Hockey can be traced to the Railway colonies, where the youth of the close-knit community made the sport a precious part of their childhoods, with full encouragement from their parents. Hockey was as dear to their lives as music. Their enthusiasm rubbed off on budding players from other communities who were quick to acknowledge that their sharpened skills were due in large part to pitting their talents against the tough, natural abilities of the Anglo-Indian boys. The community gave team India some top-class players who had a key role in developing Hockey in the then Madras State between 1960-1980, such as Jimmy Carr, Charles Huggins, Leslie Fernandes (Olympian and 1975 World Cup Goal Keeper), Chicko Johnson, Bobby Johnson and Carlton Cleur, to name a few. They began their Hockey careers as State players and rose to play for the Indian Railways as well as India in international competitions. The Anglo-Indian streak in Indian Hockey continued with players like Roger Magee, Humphrey Rosario, Adam Sinclair (another Olympian) and David Correa blazing a trail on the fields. In fact, Podanur in Coimbatore – the birthplace of Adam Sinclair – continues to be a stronghold of Anglo-Indian Hockey in Tamil Nadu.
The Anglo-Indian community contributed much to women’s Hockey, too. Joan Jayaraman from Chennai is an excellent example. “The Madras Women’s Hockey team was the very best in the years 1961 to 1970,” she said, in a chat with Madras Musings. “The teams in Madras during those years had mostly Anglo-Indian players. Many of them went on to represent the state as well as the nation. For five years, the Madras team was the runner-up in the national championship.” Joan added, with a tinge of disappointment, that this started changing when Anglo-Indians began migrating overseas from 1964, leaving the city with only four club teams. The years between 1968-1971 saw only a handful of women players from the community such as Olga, Rebecca Peres, Philipe Huggins, Pamela Dogger and Clara Jaybor.
Madras Musings also spoke to Chennaiite Brian Gaughen, a league and state-level Hockey sportsman who played alongside notables such as Jimmy Robson, Allan Coyne, Tommy Nathan, Thomas Chokee, Andrew Jacobs, Cedric D’cruz and Russel Vandeputt. He said, “Lots of youth from the Anglo-Indian community still play Hockey in Chennai. We also have exclusive tournaments for the community.” So deep is the community’s love for Hockey that one can see sportsmen even in their sixties and later playing the sport with gusto. “The never say die attitude is very much evident,” smiles Brian. A biennial All India Anglo-Indian Hockey Tournament is also being conducted by the administrators of the sport, acknowledging the community’s excellence and contribution to the sport.
Tamil Nadu still has some way to go to restore its heritage of Anglo-Indian Hockey. After all, it wasn’t just the migration that whittled away the talent pool – a lack of sponsorship and an inadequate number of competitions to foster young abilities are also reasons for the Anglo-Indian star to dim. “We still have many talented Anglo-Indian girls at the school and university levels who are capable of excelling in competition,” says Joan. “Their abilities must be tapped and coached.”