RANCHI: Rice, salt and onions form the diet budding hockey stars groomed by three academies run by the Jharkhand Sports Authority (JSA) subsist on.
While the Indian women’s team’s exploits in the Olympics have reignited the nation’s interest in hockey, those saddled with the task of bettering their show have not received their diet allowance for 17 months.
The JSA runs three hockey academies for girls — two in Ranchi and one in Simdega. Salima Tete and Nikki Pradhan, members of the Olympic team, are products of these academies.
The three academies have on their rolls 75 prospective national players, all from rural backgrounds and completely dependent on government aid for nutritious diet.
They used to get Rs 175 a day as diet allowance before the pandemic set in.
The girls were sent back home in April, 2020, after the outbreak of Covid-19, and since then their struggle to stay fit has been real.
According to Deepti Kullu from Simdega,
“It is really a challenge to stay fit in this hour of crisis. I have not received my diet allowance in 17 months. My poor family cannot spare money for my diet,” she said, but exuded confidence that this crisis would not break her determination.
Illi Tirkey of Koromia village under Thethaitanger Block in Simdega, has a similar story of deprivation to share.
“Mine is a farming family. Two square meals is a luxury at the best of times, and a special diet in times of such crisis is nearly impossible without government suppor,” says Illi, who has been working as a labourer since returning from the academy.
To soak in the pressure during the 70 minutes on the field, a player has to be mentally, psychologically and physically fit.
However, the 70 minutes on the field is always the outcome of proper training, coaches say.
The players need milk, eggs, pulses, vegetables, meat, fish and fruits to get the right amount of calcium and protein. If denied, they may not develop the desired strength and stamina.
“While other centres have cleared dues to players, these 75 girls have not been lucky,” said Pratima Barwa, coach at Residential Girls Hockley Training Center in Simdega.
Minister of tourism, sports and youth affairs Hafizul Hassan assured to sort out the matter soon.