Hockey stars earn their stripes

Updated: Sep 11, 2019, 07:59 IST | Ashwin Ferro

Olympians Adrian D'Souza, Sameer Dad and Prabhjot Singh under ex-India coach Harendra Singh win unique six-a-side tourney in California; believe such events can help the game back home

Hockey stars earn their stripes
The Nabha XI outfit comprising Olympians Adrian D'Souza (in white), Prabhjot Singh (standing, extreme right), Sameer Dad (standing, 2nd from right) and former India coach Harendra Singh (standing, 4th from right) with their trophies after winning the mixed social event at the Guru Nanak hockey tournament in California recently

A bunch of talented former India hockey players got together for a unique six-a-side tournament in America recently, and ended up winning it. And they believe that the concept, if replicated back home, can resurrect the dwindling fortunes of the sport.

Olympians Adrian D'Souza, 35, Sameer Dad, 40, and Prabhjot Singh, 39, under the guidance of former India coach Harendra Singh, and USA-based former Western Railway drag-flicker Gurusev Singh won the Mixed Social title of the 39th Guru Nanak hockey tournament in Moorpark, California recently (August 31 to Sept 2).

"We played for Nabha XI, a Phoenix-based team that has its roots in Patiala's Nabha village. Harendra is good friends with the Phoenix guys, so he got us an invite for this tournament. Prabhjot hails from Nabha village, so he was emotionally charged up. Sameer was at his fluent best and Seva was as hardworking as ever," former India custodian Adrian told mid-day on his return from the US on Sunday.

Former India hockey goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza with his trophy
Former India hockey goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza with his trophy

Unique format

The 12-team tournament's unique format, though, proved to be a challenge for the ex-India stars. "We played in the Mixed Social competition, where every side must include two junior boys or two women. The rules were loosely based on Hockey 5s but with a unique goal-scoring system. There was a virtual 'D'. If you scored from inside it, you get three points, while if you scored from outside, it was two points. Also, penalty corners were one-on-one with the goalie but there was no eight-second rule like regular hockey and all players could run back to defend or attack as soon as the PC begins," explained Adrian.

'Indian hockey needs help'

Dad felt the idea, if replicated in India, could do wonders to the game here. "Our domestic hockey system is in shambles and needs help. Fewer kids are taking up the game and the fan base has drastically reduced too. A family entertainer like this will not only attract people of all ages and gender, but may also help bring in newcomers to the game, be it players or fans. Look at what T20 cricket and the IPL has done here," said Dad.

Adrian agreed: "The concept is a hit. It's like one big fun party for family and friends. In the final, we beat a Mexican side Monarcos 6-4 and the crowd, most of whom were Indians or Asians, went crazy."

Gurusev said it was a moment of pride to see an Indian team win this title for the first time. "Chhaati chaudi ho gayi [my chest swelled up] because I now live and work here. I still believe that we [Indians] have the best hockey skills and Prabhjot and Sameer bhai proved me right with their mesmerising dodges. And Adrian was brilliant in goal — always alert and agile because the rules permitted the opposition to score from any part of the field," said Gurusev, who has been in the US for six years.

Adrian, meanwhile, recalled some fond memories at Moorpark. "The last time I came to Los Angeles was back in 2004, with the Indian team, for a preparatory camp before the Athens Olympics. We had two practice matches against USA and won both. It was a selection trial through which I made it to the Athens Olympics team, so I always had happy memories of Moorpark, and now the joy has only doubled," Adrian signed off.

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