It’s been hockey’s biggest press conference in a while. The buzz word for some time now has been the World Series Hockey. A few weeks back a few calls had come in asking about a league being formed that would change the face of the game.
Well, since we won the World Cup in 1975, yes, we won the World Cup, a lot many people have wanted to change the face of the sport. One of them was at the press conference. He goes by the name of KPS Gill. There is really no reason to throw baggage at the moment but one thing is for sure – a lot of hockey players must be on their knees in front of their favourite Gods, hands folded, really hoping that this league, World Series Hockey, works out. We all hope so for the players, broadcasters and the sponsors. One is really not too worried about the Indian Hockey Federation. Since the time Gill became President in 1994, he had ample space and time to work out this league. Sixteen years is too long a time to sit there and stare into nothing.
After a long time, players have been excited about the World Series league. A few said, “I would rather play the league than spend time in camps.” Shades of the IPL here! Play for your club and your office team and make enough to have a comfortable life as a professional player.
There is no doubt that a well planned professional league will succeed. Yes, the Olympics are important, so is the World Cup, the Champions Trophy, the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Sultan Azlan Shah Tournament. But barring a few, the rest only come once in four years. And that is where the league slots itself.
There will be the usual tussle between the IHF and Hockey India. Hockey India is supported by the International Hockey Federation while Indian Hockey Federation is backed by a court order. The players are held by the strength of their play, skills and amazing patience knowing that they have two sets of parents. And like kids who have grown up fast, they know how to extract the maximum out of both. Why not?
The league will slowly unravel itself in the next few months and by the time we hit summer, players will be keen to know which teams they would be playing for. It’s certain that it is based on the city format as was the Premier Hockey League. It would be too early to analyse the chances of success but the big thing in favour of hockey always has been its attraction on the domestic level. A Ranji Trophy final will go without a spectator in the stands but an Indian Airlines match against Indian Oil will have 10,000 watching. That is the area to cash in.
And also to take the league into smaller towns that have the astro-turf. Big cities have the infrastructure but it’s the smaller towns that are driving sports eyeballs. Big cities have too many distractions and a hockey league may or may not be on the top of their weekend watching list. Innovations are needed to make it appeal to the youngsters. The synthetic turf needs to get it’s quota of sponsors and hopefully the space around the turf would be packed with Ad boards making it look healthy for the league.
Sardara Singh, striker, midfielder and now sweeper back with the Indian team was at the launch of the league. “It feels good that in 2006 PHL started through which India got a good number of players. I think it will again help the players and hockey in the country.”
What we require is a solid club based domestic structure. The institution teams need to go. Easier said than done as they employ a huge number of players but big money slowly needs to enter the hockey field to ensure a professional approach to the game and support to the players. Ideally, it should be a 6-8 month World League where the best from the globe come and display their wares. The rest of the time they are free to turn out for their respective countries.
Highest scorer in the Asian Games, Sandeep Singh would be a catch for most teams. If early reports are to be believed then he would be one of the highest paid players in the league. At the press conference in Mumbai, he told the media – “Advertisements should come to the players because everyone wants a fresh face to come into the market. I think hockey is the only game which has been left out. See our work is to play. Forty players from our team have signed the deal. Be it Hockey India or the IHF if the league happens than it’s good for hockey. And if there is a match for the Indian team than we will definitely play for India.”