BHOPAL: At a time when Madhya Pradesh Sports and Youth Welfare Minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia has announced adding hockey into the school curriculum, a bunch of promising hockey players are being trained by a legendary coach on the footpaths of Indore in the want of a proper hockey ground.
The 125-plus stick-wielding boys and girls are being trained on the footpaths outside the District Jail and Daly College by none other, but goalkeeper-turned-coach Mir Ranjan Negi, who inspired the making of Shahrukh Khan-starrer Bollywood hit 'Chak De! India' in 2007.
Importantly, Negi, who hails from Indore is famous for being part of the coaching team, which guided Dhanraj Pillay-led team to Asian Games title triumph in 1998 and was also the coach who guided the Indian Eves to the Commonwealth Games title in 2002.
Negi, who moved to hometown Indore from Mumbai a year back after retiring from central government, has been coaching on the footpaths since the last several months the young boys and girls associated with Prakash Club, with which he began his hockey career decades back.
But Negi is not the lone star to have been associated with the 80-year-old club. Two other Indian hockey legends -- Padma Shri Kishan Lal who captained independent India's first national team to Olympic title triumph in 1948 and Padma Shri Shankar Lakshman (first goalkeeper to lead any international hockey team) who was part of Indian gold medal-winning squads at the 1956 and 1964 Olympics -- too have been associated with the same club in the past.
"A sprawling unused ground in Azad Nagar area has been the Club's base since 1940. But in 2017, the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) built a sewage treatment plant and promised to come up with a mini-stadium on remaining portion. But to date the work of building a mini stadium there remains incomplete, leaving us with no option, but to practice on the footpath outside the District Jail and Daly College," said Devki Nandan Silawat, the Club's secretary.
"We're even ready to pay for the remaining portion of the ground if the authorities decide to hand it over to us, but all our requests have fallen on deaf ears. Even in the previous Congress government, when local Congress MLA Jeetu Patwari was the sports minister our cause wasn't supported, despite the club's head Tulsi Silawat also being the health minister of the same government," said Devki Nandan Silawat, who is Tulsi Silawat's brother.
The Club's head Tulsi Silawat, who was among the 22 Congress MLAs who joined BJP in March, is now a cabinet minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. With no ground to play, the youngsters are forced to practice on the footpath amid the risk of getting injured in a road accident by speeding vehicles on the adjoining road.
Negi laments that while Bhopal and Gwalior have astro turfs, the authorities in Indore have failed to provide the Club with even a grassy ground which can prove to be the ideal training ground for promising youngsters.
"Indore has had two hockey clubs, Prakash Club and Tahir Club, but both are in bad shape. I'm training promising youngsters for free. But the authorities instead of helping us in shaping the future of talented players, have actually destroyed hockey's cause by depriving us of even one grassy ground," lamented Negi.
When contacted in the matter by The New Indian Express, the Indore Municipal Commissioner Pratibha Pal said, the work on mini-stadium was temporarily halted due to monsoon. It will begin soon.