Five-a-side at the Khudiram Anushilan Kendra Indoor Stadium, Bengal

Picture: Xaverians (St Xaviers’ Kolkata)
by Dr Shankar Kumar Chatterjee

Picture: Xaverians (St Xaviers’ Kolkata)
by Dr Shankar Kumar Chatterjee
The Ex-Bengal Women Hockey Players’ Association supported by the NGO BHARANI organized its second five a side tournament Hockey tournament for Women at the Khudiram Anushilan Kendra Indoor Stadium with the aim of reviving womens’ Hockey in Bengal, its birthplace in India where the first Hockey Clubs and Association was formed. Hockey in Bengal has dwindled in popularity and participation of late with the downswing in fortunes of India’s once dominant national sport.
The organizers were the stalwart women of Bengal Hockey of the eighties, Paramjit(Rani) Kaur Bhattacharya, Inderpal Kaur, Minot (Panchu) Ray, Shanti Mallick (also a legendary footballer and an Arjuna Award winner in 1983; it’s a gross injustice and a national shame that the Arjuna Award website fails to mention her name in the list of awardees.), Sikha Sen, Sharon Goodsall, June Jackson, Anna Britto, and Sadhana Chakraborty, all in their late forties and fifties.
Thirty-four teams, eighteen in the novice category and sixteen in the open (elite) category slugged it out for the honours in right earnest. Up for grabs were two trophies, the Surjit Memorial Cup in the open (elite) category and the Surinder Memorial Cup for the novice category, the trophies named after Paramjit Kaur Bhattacharya’s mother and aunt, respectively. Mr Inderjit Singh, Mrs Paramjit Kaur Bhattacharya’s uncle and husband of the late Mrs Surinder Kaur is the granddad hockey coach of Kolkata, one of the first NIS coaches in India, and a pupil of the legendary Dhyan Chand (India’s hockey icon and arguably the best hockey player of all time). Five teams coached by him were in the tournament, all of whom finished at the top and won laurels.
The tournament began in 2009 in a somewhat modest fashion, with twelve teams competing. Bow Hockey Association emerged winners in the open (elite) category and Howrah Broti (a team of the Dhyan Chand Hockey Taining Centre Howrah) won the novices contest in the inaugural year.
This year, the teams in the novices’ category were Xaverians (A), Xaverians (B), Thunderbirds, Howrah Hockey Training Centre, St Stephens, St Margaret, Darjeeling DHA (subsequently changed over to the elite category), Future Hope India, Behala Sharda Vidyapith, Julien day (A), Julien Day (B), Ramola, Bharani, ABWU Childrens’ Welfare Home, ABWU Primary School, Rishra Hockey Training centre and Behala Sports Association(A). It was played on knockout basis.
The elite teams were Howrah South Point School (A), Howrah South Point School (B), Khalsa English School, Howrah Hockey Training Centre, Shanti Sangha Siksha Mandir Behala, Kolkata Police Athletic Club, Ranganathpur United, Rishra Hockey Training Centre, Bow Hockey Association, Blackburn Rovers, Howrah Broti, Charulata, Bengal Youngsters, Behala Balika Vidyapith, Dhyan Chand Hockey Association and Bengal Veterans. It was a league cum knockout tournament.
The tournament was inaugurated by the Commissioner of Customs Mr S. Subramanian who pushed in two goals to declare the meet open.
In the novices semifinals All Bengal Womens’ Union Primary School (ABWUPS) beat Xaverians (A) 1-0 and Bharani beat Xaverians (B) 2-0 to reach the finals. In the finals Bharani beat ABWUPS 2-1 winning the championship. Both were teams were coached by the venerable Inderjit Singh.
In the elites, Howrah Hockey Training center beat Darjeeling DHA 3-0 and Bow Hockey Association walloped Kolkata Police AC 7-2 to set up a thrilling final clash. The finals were played at a very high pace on the wooden floor. Bow Hockey Association drew first blood through a brilliant field goal by Margaret Joseph in the 9th minute. Howrah Hockey Training Center equalized in the 20th minute through a spectacular two on one move with Pupen Kujur making no mistake. The veteran Pushpa Ekka clinched the issue for Bow Hockey Association in the 24th minute by a well-placed shot beating the Howrah girls clean. The back to back wins two years in succession is a testimony to the coaching skills of Terence D’Cruz.
The novice team Thunderbirds who could not play their competition fixture as four girls were having their exams were allowed to play an exhibition match on the second day where they held the elite Howrah Broti to a goalless draw.
The old warhorses, Bengal Veterans played out an exhibition match with Charulata who edged them out 3-2. Paramjit, Inderpal, Sandhya, Shanti, Sharon et al showed flashes of their earlier brilliance.
Sangita Khaka in the elite section and Sadhana Khatoon it in the novices group won the best player trophies. The highest scorers were Pupa Cecilia Kujur in the elite section and Jyoti Sharma in the novices section. The fair play awards went to Charulata in the elite section and Future Hope of India among the novices. Rani Sardar of Ramola and Kaveri Pradhan of ABWUPS were adjudged the most promising players.
There was a splendid yoga demonstration by the children of the All Bengal Womens’ Union Primary School trained and conducted by Paramjit Kaur Bhattacharya.
The former Olympian and BHA Secretary Gurbux Singh and Gautam Mohan Bhattacharya the Commissioner of Kolkata Police were among the dignitaries who visited the tournament.
The organization was punctual and excellent with full arrangements for breakfast, lunch, tea, and adequate good quality drinking water for the layers, coaches and visitors. The ladies put up an amazing show worth emulating.
It is regrettable that such these selfless ladies with the only desire of raising the participation and standard of Hockey in Bengal should organize this tournament largely at their own expense. Probably they are not that commerce savvy and everything costs money. Is it fair that they be made to pay for their love for the national sport and their efforts to promote it? Some veteran or the other personally donated almost all the trophies. The corporate sector should have some conscience and come forward to sponsor the selfless endeavour of these respectable ladies instead of falling over each other trying to sponsor Cricket. The Bengal veterans have done enough and more, way beyond what should be expected of them.
The media, electronic and print, as is expected of them in everything related to Hockey (sans the bad news) turned a Nelson’s eye to the tournament. If conduct, enthusiasm and participation in this tournament and the amazing number of new grassroots level teams is any indication, Hockey in Bengal and India is destined to live and thrive, with, without or in spite of the media.
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