The third 5-a-side invitational tournament in Kolkata was organized by the Bengal Women Hockey Players’ Association with the support of Khalsa English High School, Paddapukur, Kolkata, and NGO BHARANI, Kolkata, on 5th & 6th November 2011. This year the number of teams got reduced from 34 last year to 24, partly the result of lack of sponsorship. The organizers were also careful to prevent spurious entrants i.e, players from other states sneaking in and playing as mercenaries. The former women hockey players from Bengal, Paramjit Kaur Bhattacharya, Sandhya Chakrabarty, June Jackson, Reba Chawdhury, Sikha Sen, Shanti Mullick (a football legend too), Inderpal Kaur, Dolly Das along with Ms Bharti Divgikar, who runs the NGO Bharani teamed up this year too to conduct another well organized tournament.
The high point of this years’ tournament was it was played on the sand based artificial 6 v 6 sized “ TIGER TURF” which was laid down at the Khalsa English School in Bhowanipore which this author covered in April this year. The hockey fraternity in Kolkata will remain indebted to the school for this work of theirs. As in last year, there were the Surjit Memorial Cup in the open (elite) category and the Surinder Memorial Cup for the novice category, the trophies named after Mrs Paramjit Kaur Bhattacharya’s late mother and aunt (deceased wife of Mr Inderjit Singh, the legendary hockey coach of Kolkata) , respectively.
There were twelve teams in both the senior (elite) and novice categories. This year, the teams in the novices’ category were Julien Day School (Ganganagar) , Soura Niloy Thunderbirds, St Stephens School Kolkata, Darjeeling 7, Future Hope India, Julien day School (Elgin Road), Julien Day School (Kalyani), Bharani and ABWU Primary School, South point Duila, South Point Baksara & HTC Howrah.
The senior (elite) teams were, Khalsa English School, Howrah Hockey Training Centre, Ranganathpur United, , Bow Hockey Association, St Theresa’s High School Darjeeling, Durgapur, Rishra, Behala Sports Association, ABWU,and South Point School Baksara, Future Hope India & Xaverians.
The tournament was declared open by Mr Madan Mitra the Sports Minister of the State of West Bengal on the 5th November 2011 who pushed the ball into the goal. He also posed for a photo session with the novice teams Thunderbirds and the ABWU. Thereafter in his address he announced a State Govt. grant of Rs One Lakh to the Organizers of the tournament, which was greeted by loud cheers and applause. He also promised to sit for a meeting of the Sports Council and the organizers of the Tournament to discuss about what best could be done about womens’ hockey in West Bengal. The promises, if fulfilled, augurs well for womens’ hockey in West Bengal. He also declared that Paramjit Kaur Bhattacharya would be made Jt.Secretary of Bengal Hockey Association (Women Representative) and Sandhya Chakrabarty would be made Council Member BHA.
The first round was played on a league basis, after which Darjeeling, Durgapur, Howrah Hockey Training Centre and Bow Hockey Association qualified in the Senior category and All Bengal Womens’ Association Primary School, Future Hope, Julien Day School Ganganagar and Bharani qualified in the novice category. The semifinals too were played on a round robin league basis.
The results in the semifinal league in the novice category were as follows: All Bengal Womens’ Union Primary School beat Future Hope 4-0; Bharani routed Julien Day School Elgin Rd 12-0; Bharani pipped ABWU Primary School 5-4 and Future Hope beat Julien Day School Elgin Road 2-0.
The seniors’ semifinal league showed some scintillating hockey. St Theresa’s School Darjeeling beat Durgapur girls 3-2. This was a keenly fought encounter. There was some rough play by the Durgapur girls as a result of which Jyoti Rai of Darjeeling was hit on the face resulting in two cuts which had to be repaired with application of stitches at a nearby private clinic. The Darjeeling girls of course showed a lot of resolve and clinched the match 3-2. The match between Howrah Training Centre and Bow Hockey Association ended in an exciting 5-5 draw.
Howrah Hockey Training centre beat Durgapur 6-4. Then Bow Hockey beat Darjeeling 3-2. In the next match Howrah Training Centre beat Darjeeling STS 7-3. The margin isn’t a true indicator of the game. This was easily the most exciting encounter. The indomitable Darjeeling girls fought with tremendous grit and determination. Jyoti Rai, who took the field with six stitches on her face played a spectacular game and scored 3 goals for her team too. At the end of the match she got a standing ovation accompanied by a thunderous applause from the spectators. Simply put, she is courage and fortitude personified. In the next match Bow Hockey Association beat Durgapur 2-0. Bharani and ABWU played out another thriller ending 5-4 in Bharani’s favour. In the last semifinal league match Future Hope beat the Julien Day school 2-0.
The mercurial Indian super-dribbler Dhanraj Pillay arrived before the finals and got introduced to the girls. The excitement among the kids was visible. The novices’ final between the ABWU Primary School and Bharani was a nail biting affair. Tied 4-4- at the end of regulation time and 7-7 at the end of the tie breaker Bharani managed to pip ABWU in sudden death(8-7).
The senior final was a battle between the experience of the Bow Hockey association and the fitness of the Howrah Hockey training centre. At half time the score was 3-1 for the Bow Hockey Association. The faster and fitter girls from Howrah training Centre soon outpaced and outplayed the Bow Hockley girls who were tiring fast. At the end of the game the score was 5-3 in favour of the Howrah Training Centre. The best player in the Senior category was Minu Khatoon of the Howrah Hockey Training Centre. Rakhi Sharma of ABWU Primary School was chosen the best player from the novices. The highest scorer award went to Sadhana Khatoon of Bharani with 7 goals among the junior and the highest scorer within the seniors was Pupen Kujur of HTC Howrah with 17 goals to her credit.
The organizers of the tournament have decided to select thirty players who will be sent for an advanced coaching camp. Although all the participating teams sans the Khalsa English High School have only natural surfaces to play on, they took to the artificial surface like fishes take to water. One wishes the kids could have at least three to four tournaments per year on artificial turf from this stage, so that the disadvantage at the senior level of having to play on the artificial surface is offset.
Also, organizing tournaments of this nature need money to be organized. The last year’s tournament organized on a much larger scale, after which this author approached several Indian and foreign corporates and drew a blank. The media won’t showcase hockey, the Corporates will not touch hockey with a bargepole, and people at large won’t care about it. Then how is Hockey supposed to come up again? “First perform, then ask for sponsorship”; would be the response of the detractors to this article. To them, I ask how would our kids supposed to learn the game given the overall suboptimal situation? Field hockey is field hockey, a proper Olympic Sport. Neither there is ball tampering, match fixing or mingling of the Bollywood glitterati with the players at late night parties in Hockey nor is it played by a handful of colonial cousins where a sneak win can get you the title of “World Champion”. Hockey is developed bottom upwards, not top downwards. What have the organizers of this tournament done, or not done to be denied sponsorship from any of the Corporates? However, the resolve, honesty and the nobility of purpose of the courageous ladies who are organizing this tournament or movement in the face of insurmountable odds is to be seen to be believed and is unlikely to be cowed down in the face of the odds facing them.
Dr Shankar Kumar Chatterjee