Despite all the ills and evils blamed on the Indian Premier League, there is no doubting the fact that it has brought about a franchise-based sporting revolution in a country where sport still largely remains a secondary career option. The latest to benefit is a newly-composed franchise-based rink hockey league by former India internationals Gavin Ferreira and Cornelius D’Costa.
Former India forward Gavin Ferreira at Malad Gymkhana yesterday. Pic/Nimesh Dave. Inset: Former India defender Cornelius D’Costa
Idea behind MRHL
“Not every hockey player can go on to play for his city or state or country or in the Hockey India League. So, we thought of having a tournament for our city boys to showcase their skill with a decent earning potential. So, what began as a casual conversation over a couple of drinks a year back, the R2.5 lakh prize money Mumbai Rink Hockey League (MRHL) is now a fully charted out and even approved by most parties, franchise-based tournament that will roll out on December 1-5 at Malad Gymkhana,” Ferreira, an Olympian, who represented India at the 1996 Atlanta Games among other tournaments told mid-day yesterday.
The stylish forward went on to explain: “There will be six teams, sponsored by different parties, and we will draw from a pool of 60-70 city-based players who will be graded into a star player, a Grade B player and a Grade C player depending on age and achievements.
“Players will be picked through a draft. Each team, comprising nine players and a coach, is priced at R1.5 lakh.
R1 lakh will be distributed per team among the players. We’ve got a co-sponsor, the Laughing Cavalier restaurant. Sponsors for five of the six teams are confirmed too.”
D’Costa, an injury-plagued, but sturdy sweeper back in his heyday, having represented India in tournaments in Kenya, South Africa and Germany besides the Indira Gandhi International Gold Cup in New Delhi in 1992, said MRHL has received positive feedback from players.
“The response has been great. All players agree that there’s a dearth of quality hockey tournaments in Mumbai. We are also in talks with a local cable operator to telecast the tournament from Borivli to Goregaon. We’ll look at affiliation from the Mumbai Hockey Association too. Our team sponsors are not big corporates, but some of our local and overseas well wishers and hockey lovers,” said D’Costa.
Top city players in fray
Most of the city-based top teams have agreed to release their players for MRHL. “The Railways, RCF, Union Bank of India and most other city clubs have agreed to let their players participate in MRHL. I’ll be discussing details with Air-India coach Dhanraj Pillay and seek his permission to release AI’s city boys,” added Ferreira, who alongwith D’Costa is a part of AI’s cabin crew.
UK United team sponsor Ronnie D’Souza
Malad-based hotelier brothers Ronnie and Sunny D’Souza, one of the team’s sponsors, said it’s more of a social initiative for them rather than a business venture. “Hockey is our national game, but somehow it’s not promoted well. Malad used to be one of Mumbai’s prominent hockey hubs, but over time that has changed. I’m supporting MRHL with the hope that Malad gets back its hockey glory,” said the owner of Uncle’s Kitchen United team.
Finally, though there is no current national player in the fray, one significant member of the India team has assured his support for MRHL. “India captain Sardar Singh is a good friend, he has not only wished us well, but has also promised to drop in to support our league,” Ferreira signed off.
Dec 1-5: Tournament dates
Venue: Malad Gymkhana
6: Number of teams
9: Number of players per team plus a coach.
Pools: Pool A & Pool B
Format: Round robin league followed by then semis.
R2.5 lakh: Total prize money
R1.5 lakh: Cost of a team
R1 lakh: To be distributed among each team
60-70: Pool of players
Player differentiation: Star player, Grade A player, Grade B player, depending on age/achievements.
Draft system: Players to be picked across 10-round draft
>> 9 rounds for 9 players
>> 1 round to pick coaches
>> 1st round to pic star player
>> 2nd round to pick coach
>> Branding: Team sponsors can print brands on jerseys/banner/rink boards.