In a damning blow to the hopes of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) of wresting back control over hockey in the country, President of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Leandro Negre told MiD DAY yesterday that the IHF is history and Hockey India (HI) is the way ahead for the game in the country.
“We have given the IHF plenty of opportunities so far (to join hands with HI). They have to be smarter and understand that they are the past while Hockey India (HI) is the future of hockey in India.
In other countries like England, Australia and New Zealand too there were warring administrative factions, but they all worked out their differences because they wanted to work for the betterment of the game,” Negre, who was the chief guest at the Mumbai Magicians vs Uttar Pradesh Wizards match played at the Mahindra Hockey Association Stadium on Tuesday, told MiD DAY yesterday.
Indian hockey finished last at the London Olympics last year, after having failed to qualify for the previous edition of the Games in Beijing. Negre though didn’t wish to read too much into that. “Let’s not forget that India did well to finish fourth in the recent Champions Trophy at Melbourne,” he pointed out.
Having played for Spain at the Olympics in 1968 when the game was still played on grass, Negre felt India were a tad late in adapting to the artificial playing surface thereafter.
“The problem was that when astroturf was first introduced in 1976, European nations saw it as the future of hockey and took steps to adapt to it. However, some Asian countries like India, were not too keen on playing on the new surface and showed a lack of vision on their part,” he said, before justifying the switch in the playing surface: “Don’t get me wrong. I like grass pitches. I have played on them. The grass smells nice, but the game needed astroturf to speed up the game and make it more exciting. Games on grass pitches, on the other hand, is boring for the spectators at times.” Finally, the FIH chief heaped praise on the ongoing inaugural Hockey India League (HIL), and HIL chairman Narinder Batra in particular.
“Though the HIL is only in its first year, it’s already very popular, not just in India but abroad too,” he said.