Whatever be the persisting controversies and contortions in the governance of the sport, the Hero-Hockey India League (HIL), set for launch on Monday, is worthy of commendation. It is a task accomplished with a measure of diligence and determination. Both in concept and format it looks like a path-breaker.

No country has succeeded in facilitating a competition that gives a hockey player a complete professional identity. Some efforts were made in the last decade in this direction, but the HIL stands out as unique. Imagine an event that manages to assemble such a galaxy of world renowned players of class, calibre and craft in five different combinations.

The best of the Dutch, Aussies and Germans, along with the Kiwis, Pakistanis and, of course, the pick of India’s outstanding lot, come together in a format to enthral the aficionados as never before.

What illustrates the importance of this event, or enhances its value, is the decision of the FIH top brass including the President, Leandro Negre, to be present at the inauguration. Probably for the first time in its history, the FIH looks to India for turning a new leaf.

The competition is sure to vibrate in Delhi, Mumbai, Jalandhar, Lucknow and Ranchi from January 14 to February 10 igniting the passion of the spectators to view and analyse the styles and system of players who will be guided by such marvellous coaches like Ric Charlesworth, Barry Dancer, Reolent Oltmans.

Best to happen

Everyone agrees that the event is the best to happen for the sport in India.

Barring that abominable result in the London Games, India’s showing in the year that went by can be described as encouraging. Performances at Azlan Shah and in the recent Champions Trophy at Melbourne and Doha cannot be dismissed as totally disappointing. Coach Michael Nobbs’ expectation of a better 2013 is a realistic assessment of the talent available.

Having said this, one cannot overlook the continuing confusion arising out of the administrative conundrum. It is a pity that no solution is in sight for the chaos that haunts the sport since the creation of Hockey India five years ago. Another Olympiad has come and gone, but the problem of two federations remains.

Those on the side of HI stand to benefit enormously from the Hero-HIL venture. But several competent players find themselves isolated. They neither can hope to make their presence felt nor take advantage of the available plums.

In the ugly stand-off between the HIL and the IHF the players’ interests are sacrificed. The irritants get enmeshed in the plethora of proposals unacceptable for one or the other group.

While the Hero-HIL is getting into focus we have the spectacle of a national (under-20) competition being hosted by IHF in Hyderabad. For the 200-odd boys who will be in action the future is uncertain. They are ineligible for a national camp or an international event under HIL. The same is the case for players in the other strata of events held by IHF. Where do they go and what are they playing for?

If the interest of the players is paramount as claimed by both then a working arrangement between the two groups, with the blessings of the FIH, is not difficult to achieve.

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