Paid to play rink hockey

Internationals Cornelius D’Costa (from right), Gavin Ferreira, Anil Aldrin being introduced to teams during the MRHL inauguration at Malad Gymkhana on Tuesday night, accompanied by Caralisa Monteiro, noted songwriter and playback singer.

Internationals Cornelius D’Costa (from right), Gavin Ferreira, Anil Aldrin being introduced to teams during the MRHL inauguration at Malad Gymkhana on Tuesday night, accompanied by Caralisa Monteiro, noted songwriter and playback singer.  

Rink Hockey League looks inward and focus is on encouraging local talent, in contrast to sporting leagues elsewhere in which foreign faces and crowd-pullers from other states are prominent.

Launched by two hockey internationals with a reputation for being street smart on the hockey turf, World Cupper Cornelius D’Costa and Olympian Gavin Ferreira, the six-team mini-hockey competition took off on a floodlit cement court at Malad Gymkhana in the suburbs, far away from city’s hockey centre, Mumbai Hockey Association stadium.

India teammate Anil Aldrin, former national team captain, joined hands to promote the five-a-side variation of field hockey, named rink hockey, popular among clubs across the city. He is supporting a schools event staged before the main show. Mumbai internationals and national-level players honed reflexes in this fast-paced version, played on smaller field and smaller goalposts. MRHL stands out from other rink hockey events in the sense that the co-founders brought money into the game by paying the participants to play.

In a city where rink hockey stars were accustomed to going home with nothing more than excitement of competing and recognition from fans, teams will pay amounts ranging from Rs 13,000-Rs 7000 per head for five days of play, 25 minutes each night. Six games are over, three daily, Yuvraj Walmiki and Girish Pimpale scored four goals each, Kishore Kumar was on the mark three times Songwriter and playback singer Caralisa Monteiro sang the national anthem, accompanied by D’Costa, Ferreira and Aldrin.

“Players will be paid to play rink hockey, which is exciting and popular across Mumbai. Participation is restricted to players from the city,” explained Gavin, former India forward. “The MHA League has teams with many outstation players and from SAI. Opportunities are limited for Mumbai’s emerging talents. We tried to give locals a chance.” Hockey players from Punjab to Pune are contracted per season by MHA teams including company teams, paying an average of Rs 7000 monthly stipend and team kit.

Former India defender Cornelius, known for imperious overlapping runs nd tackles, chips in: ‘’We wanted to do something for Mumbai rink hockey, to make the effort worthwhile for everyone involved — hockey lovers, players, coaches. It is a small beginning, on the lines of Hockey India League. We conducted a players’ draft to form teams, chosen by owners and coaches. The idea is to give city players not part of HIL to experience how a draft works. Getting paid to play will change players approach, each one will perform to be rated higher next time.”

Money is expected to spur change in rink hockey, among players and those watching from the stands. “The biggest difference will come in the playing standards, each player will try to display skills and attract attention from team owners. The next time we have a draft pick, new stars will emerge, creating more options for MHA League team coaches to choose from,” pointed out the ex-internationals. Famous names in MRHL are Olympian and goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza, India midfielder Vikram Pillai (representing Air India) and India forward Yuvraj Walmiki (Central Railway).

D’Souza, Pillai and Walmiki are named captains and fall in category of star players, alongwith captains Girish Pimpale, Vikas Pillai, Amit Gowda. Playing fees range from Rs 13000 for internationals named team captains, to Rs 7000 for others divided into categories A and B and based on specialties (goalkeeper, defender, forward). Each team has an owner investing Rs 1.5 lakh each to own a rink hockey team, carrying distinct names as per their choice. Star players will be paid a premium, keeping in view their match-winning ability and experience.

Cornelius was surprised by response from hockey well-wishers to become team owners. “People whom we approached, some are hockey fans and others we know support rink hockey, agreed at first attempt once we explained the idea and told them how their money would go straight to the players.” Gavin added: “Owners money will go straight to the players and every game will also have a Man of Match cash award worth Rs 1000.

Air India forward Kishore Kumar was named MoM though his team Jabaaz Almedians lost 3-4 to Mumbai Phantoms in the opener on Tuesday night. Walmiki starred for UK United in a 4-3 victory over Orlem Vikings. Pimpale emerged match-winner for Poinsur Pirates against Wadala Wanderers, the scoreline 7-6 in favour of the former. Goalkeepers of Adrian D’Souza’s caliber can be match-winners in rink hockey too, defying forwards with reflex saves.  He made a mark in this version of field hockey, before moving on to don India colours at the Athens Olympics 2004, adding to the list of hockey Olympians from Mumbai to grace the game.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 10:28:01 PM |

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