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An international tournament in Chennai likely

S. Thyagarajan

CHENNAI: An international hockey tournament is now a possibility as a dress rehearsal for the prestigious Champions Trophy to be held here from December 10 to 18. The initiative for this, not surprisingly, comes from the Murugappa Group.

Buoyed by the unprecedented success of this year's MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup tournament, which had a tremendous spectator response— one computation put the cumulative total attendance on the eve of the final at 80,000 — the top brass of the company is more than enthusiastic to turn this dream into reality.

The thumbs-up

A. Vellayan, Director (External Relations) gives the thumbs-up for a four-nation tournament involving, the Olympic champion Australia, Pakistan, Malaysia and the host. He is confident of finding a sponsor for each team and getting full support from the State Government. Quite predictably, both the IHF and the Tamil Nadu Hockey Association are responsive to the suggestion. An attempt is being made to chart a budget for the event, apart from finding the suitable dates and approval of the International Hockey Federation.

There is hope that the interest generated by the Murugappa Gold Cup will hold good throughout the year.

As the floodlights at the Stadium are to be positioned and made functional by the end of next month, the enthusiasm among the spectators is sure to multiply. Competitive hockey under floodlights will not only be novelty, but it will also facilitate a much larger turn-out after office hours.

More importantly, spectators who avoid the eastern gallery during matches now because of the humid weather throughout the year can be comfortably seated once the venue is equipped with floodlights.

Opening ceremony mooted

The officials of the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) are anxious to usher in the flood-lit stadium with a grand opening ceremony. Some suggest that there should be an India-Pakistan contest presided over by the Chief Minister.

Not long ago, the IHF was contemplating reviving the Chief Minister's Gold Cup. The IHF top brass K.P.S. Gill and K. Jothikumaran met the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, to expedite the renovation of the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium for the conduct of the tournament.

Now that the Murugappa Group is more than willing to support the idea of an international, the IHF is expected to seize the chance and ensure that India becomes a part of the international calendar. Actually, the FIH has included the Indira Gandhi Gold Cup tournament from October 1 to 8 in New Delhi in this year's calendar.

It is unclear at this point whether the national federation is going ahead with preparations for this. If for some reason the IHF is unable to conduct the event in New Delhi as programmed, then the offer by Murugappa Group can well be taken to host the tournament here sometime in September.

Not often does hockey get a sponsor willing to co-operate and organise an international event with assured sponsorship for each competing nation. The IHF can even explore avenues for a six nation tournament, adding at least two teams from Europe, to the four mentioned, so that a full fledged dry run for the Sahara Champions Trophy be held in September.

A flood-lit hockey stadium will be boon for this city. It is for the authorities to utilise the facility to serve the interest of the huge spectator support base that the Murugappa Gold Cup tournament authorities tapped with impeccable organisation last fortnight.

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