Jaipal Singh's village learns to play hockey once more

Great grandnephew hosts U-14 memorial tournament to revive legacy of legendary olympian

By A.S.R.P. Mukesh in Ranchi
  • Published 2.01.18
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CATCH 'EM YOUNG: Budding players during a match of Jaipal Singh Munda Memorial Hockey Tournament at Takra village, 30km from Ranchi, on Sunday. Telegraph picture

Ranchi: He had captained the Indian hockey team at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics and returned with gold. But, younger generations in Jaipal Singh Munda's native Takra village in Khunti district, around 30km from here, have long been ignorant about their rich legacy. So much so that the game itself has sunk into oblivion.

All that will possibly change if hearty endeavours of John Munda, gram pradhan of Takra and great grandnephew of Jaipal Singh, bear fruit.

With the solitary goal to promote the legend of a Marang Gomke (great leader) - a sobriquet earned by the sportsman who was also a campaigner for the Adivasi cause - fans and descendants a few months ago set up the Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Munda Memorial Trust, which is currently holding the first-ever hockey tournament in Takra.

The Under-14 league for 12 teams from Takra and its four neighbouring villages began a week ago and the final will be played on Wednesday, January 3, to mark the 116th birth anniversary of Jaipal Singh. Medals will have a picture of the hockey legend embossed on them.

"People prefer playing football in our village. They have been doing so for long. It may sound surprising that children here never saw a hockey stick before, let alone playing the game. The elderly know about my great granduncle, but the youth are clueless. We want to revive hockey here," John told this correspondent over phone on Monday.

Khunti has given birth to a few hockey players over decades, but none ever hailed from Jaipal Singh's native Takra.

"Simdega district, on the other hand, has become a nursery of the game. We hope to hold tournaments in every district in the memory of Jaipal Singh," John said, adding that they had managed to procure 100 hockey sticks through donations for the 12 teams.

"We have six teams each for boys and girls. These children hail from Hatudarmi, Dabdana, Potamgarha and Patibera villages, besides Takra. They are holding a hockey stick for the first time. Old-timers coached them for a couple of weeks before the tournament began. You may say Jaipal Singh's village is learning to play hockey again," John smiled.

The 11-day tournament is being supported by Ranchi Munda Sabha, a voluntary outfit. On the eve of the final, a three-room school named after the Marang Gomke will also debut in Takra. It will be inaugurated by ADG Rezi Dungdung of Jharkhand Armed Police.

"Students will be enrolled from nursery to Class VI. The fee will be nominal so that villagers can afford to send their children here. Apart from being a regular school, special classes will be held to teach people about Jaipal Singh's life and times, his principles and struggle to promote tribal culture," John said.