Despite the huge hoardings covering hundreds of seats at the National Stadium, the iconic hockey venue hosting the high-profile Hockey World League (HWL) finals looks almost deserted because of the poor turnout of spectators.
The capital city, which used to draw thousands of fans during domestic tournaments until a few years back, is now utterly indifferent towards the sport.
Coincidentally, the trend has kept pace with the sliding fortunes of Indian hockey!
Except for the matches involving India, which attracted around a couple of thousand people on the first two days, the overall disappearance of crowd was not entirely unexpected.
As Netherlands coach Paul van Ass pointed out, the poor attendance in the stands during the Junior World Cup at this venue last month was a good indicator about the what to expect in the HWL final.
However, Australian coach Ric Charlesworth was grossly upset with the empty seats. “Horrible!” said Charlesworth, adding “The International Hockey Federation (FIH) can take responsibility or whoever can. Had it been in any other city in India, you would have fair bit of spectators,” he said on Saturday.
Charlesworth also pointed out the problem in scheduling the HWL, which he said was supposed to be held in December.
Belgium’s head coach Marc Lammers was unsparing in his criticism.
“For me, it is a pity that there is nobody in the stadium.
“We have to play in India to promote hockey and there is nobody in the stadium. I do not understand why we have to play here.
“Give the people free tickets and the stadium is full. It is good for the players, good for the atmosphere and good for television. But this is no promotion,” he said.
The FIH has allotted several important events, including the 2015 HWL finals, to India in the next four years. Thankfully, Hockey India (HI) has decided to hold some of these events outside Delhi.
HI Secretary General Narinder Batra has been quoted as saying that Bhubaneswar will host the prestigious Champions Trophy, scheduled from December 13 to 21 this year.