The Last Word with Mir Ranjan Negi

Sports

Q: Does India care about hockey?
A: Unfortunately our national game is in a very fragile state. It is not doing well. The worst hit we could have had was Indiaís failure to qualify for the Olympics. It is extremely important for something to be done to improve this situation and revive the sport.

Q: What would you cite as the reason for this sad state of hockey in India?
A: The reasons are many. The hockey federation is largely responsible for this. India has enough potential to produce good hockey players but there is hardly any scope. There is no audience for the sport anymore. Nor is there any money or facilities in it. Hockey has just ended up becoming a dull sport.

Q: Do you see any signs of change in the near future?
A: We have to bring about the change in the scenario. We have to decide to bring hockey to the position and popularity it once enjoyed. Thankfully, there are some people, like Salaam Bombay Foundation, who are helping us in our efforts.

Q: Tell us about the Salaam Bombay Hockey Academy?
A: The idea of the academy germinated from my desire to help Indian children - especially those from underprivileged backgrounds. I would like to get these children to play hockey and provide them with better opportunities not just as players but also as human beings. We try to provide them with good facilities. Maybe not all my students will play for India, but they will at least live better lives.

Q: Why an academy exclusively for girls?
A: Boys still get more chances in life than girls. When the girl is from an underprivileged background, all she is expected to do is household work. Through my academy I want to give them more opportunities and teach them to face life with confidence.

Q: Can children from other schools and NGOs also join here?
A: At present we are dealing with only a few schools -- New Sion School, Rajawadi School and Guru Nanak School - where we have hand-picked girls who have a talent for hockey. We intend to reach out to as many talented hockey players as possible. Gradually we will expand the activities of the academy.

Q: What opportunities and facilities are available for budding hockey players?
A: We donít have sufficient grounds, trainers, infrastructure or even sponsors. All these are required to ensure budding hockey players better opportunities.

Q: What is your advise for children interested in playing hockey?
A: It is important to train with a good coach. There are many hockey coaches, but many of them donít even know the basics of their jobs. Youngsters need a strong basic knowledge of the game, they need good gear, training and nutritional facilities.

Q: What is the best age to start training in hockey?
A: One should start training at the age of 12-13 years. Hockey is a dangerous game and the player must be strong and old enough to sustain and bear injuries.

Q: Is there any target you have set for your academy?
A: I have a target of seeing at least four to five players from my academy play for India by 2014. Besides this, I also aim to improve the condition of the sport in the country.

Q: How do you plan to bring hockey into the limelight?
A: We need to bring the audience and money back into hockey. A certain amount of glamour and entertainment is thus necessary. When there is entertainment, there is an audience and if there is an audience, there will also be sponsorship which can contribute to the development of the infrastructure needed for playing better hockey. Hockey has to be made popular among the masses again if it has to succeed.

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