decked-up venue: Astroturf Hockey Stadium in Ranchi on Wednesday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Dozens of international hockey stars along with a galaxy of Bollywood starlets will be the toast of state capital Ranchi, as Hockey India League — a five franchisee-based professional tournament — winds up on February 10.
The final, which will be played out at the state-of-the-art Astroturf Hockey Stadium in Morabadi, is also likely to witness the presence of a number of Federation of International Hockey (FIH) officials, including the likes of FIH president Leandro Negre and the federation’s chief executive officer Kelly Fairweather, who have confirmed their participation.
Speaking to The Telegraph over phone from Delhi, Hockey India manager for media and public relations Rahul Trehan confirmed that they were in talks with some Bollywood artistes.
“Yes, the senior FIH officials have agreed to come down to Ranchi for the final match. A number of Bollywood stars are also likely to be present on the last day of the tournament,” Trehan said.
Though, Trehan refused to divulge names, sources said the authorities were in talks with Bollywood’s Khiladi No 1 Akshay Kumar to be a part of the final with star diva Katrina Kaif likely to be the second celebrity.
Akshay Kumar, incidentally, had made an appearance during Tuesday’s league match between Delhi Waveriders and Jaypee Punjab Warriors at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in Delhi, crooning a song from one of his upcoming films for his fans. Katrina Kaif, on the other hand, has had her tryst with Jharkhand having performed at the state capital’s Birsa Munda Athletics Stadium in Mega Sports Complex, Hotwar, during the opening ceremony of the 34th National Games.
The FIH-sanctioned Hockey India League, designed somewhat on the lines of the cash-rich Indian Premier League cricket tournament, has players from as many as 11 countries participating in it divided into five teams — Uttar Pradesh Wizards, Delhi Waveriders, Jaypeee Punjab Warriors, Mumbai Magicians and Ranchi Rhinos.
The league, after getting off to a glamorous start in Delhi on January 14, has seen four matches being played at Morabadi’s astroturf stadium, most of which has witnessed packed crowds cheering on the home team Ranchi Rhinos.
Jharkhand, which is traditionally known to produce national and international hockey talents over the past several decades, with the likes of Birendra Lakra, Arvind Kujur and Sumit Topno now carrying on the legacy by playing for the Rhinos team.
Ranchi’s Morabadi turf has been allotted all the playoff matches, with two semi-final ties being scheduled on February 9, followed by the final the next day. The stadium, which will also host the third and fourth place qualifiers of February 10, is expected to be sold out for the final.
As on Wednesday, Delhi Waveriders, after defeating Jaypee Punjab Warriors 3-0 on Tuesday, topped the points table with 32 points, with Ranchi Rhinos hanging on to the second spot with 27 points.
“We are going to make the final of the touranment a memorable event, one that all hockey lovers remember,” Trehan promised before signing off.