Chak de on Astroturf

Simdega's present to future Asuntas & Dungdungs

By A.S.R.P. Mukesh in Ranchi
  • Published 10.04.15
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Sports minister Amar Kumar Bauri greets local players after inaugurating the new Astroturf stadium in Simdega on Thursday. Telegraph picture

Ranchi, April 9: Simdega, touted as state's hockey district, today received a much-needed shot in the arm as a Rs 5-crore Astroturf hockey stadium was inaugurated here today, a first for this tribal hinterland around 100km from Ranchi.

State sports minister Amar Kumar Bauri inaugurated the 60mx100m Hockey Prashikshan Kendra on the sprawling Rajya Balika Awasiya Uchha Vidyalaya campus in Simdega in the presence of local BJP MLA Vimla Pradhan, sports officials, including Hockey Jharkhand functionaries, and local residents.

He also promised a couple more Astroturf stadiums in this sleepy district town.

Talking to The Telegraph over phone from Simdega, an elated MLA Pradhan said the new facility would go a long way to hone hinterland players.

"It's the first such stadium in Simdega. It took about a year to come up. Though more stadiums should have come up much before here, better late than never," she said.

But, this issue wasn't on the poll agenda in the 2014 Assembly polls. Though no one is saying so openly, this Astroturf project was proposed way back in the mid-2000s, ran into controversies and then was revived some 18 months ago. The present government can in no way claim any credit for it.

But, Hockey Jharkhand president Bholanath Singh hailed minister Bauri's announcement to set up more Astroturf stadiums in Simdega.

"The minister announced two-three more such facilities and asked his subordinates in the department to submit formal plans. That's most welcome. Hockey should continue to flourish in Simdega with greater intensity," Singh said.

Hockey, it is said, runs in Simdega's blood.

Besides Olympian gold medallist Sylvanus Dungdung, other top-notch national and international talents from Simdega include Michael Kindo, Justine Kerketta, Noel Topno, James Kerketta, Bimal Lakra, Sumarai Tete, Kanti Baa, Masira Surin and Asunta Lakra.

But, every one of them was initiated into the stick-and-ball game on any of the dusty and uneven fields, grazing areas or at best, football grounds. Forget Astroturf, the district lacked proper grounds for wannabe talents.

For this reason, Dungdung, part of India's gold-winning hockey team in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, said: "So glad we can train youngsters on Astroturf. Despite all challenges, Simdega is one of the best places to find talented players."

Former India captain Asunta and Simdega girl said this was a "very happy day for me personally".

Last December, during poll tours across districts, The Telegraph caught up with ninth grader Kanchi Khess of Ursuline Convent Balika Madhya Evam Uccha Vidyalaya in Simdega's Rengari village.

In last year's report titled "Poll-time games fair and foul; Simdega lives to play hockey", The Telegraph highlighted what Kanchi and her friends, aged between 11 and 14 years, wanted, as they wrapped up a hockey match on an uneven football ground.

The report rued the lack of grounds in Jharkhand's hockey capital, the result of apathy of successive governments.