A. Joseph Antony
HYDERABAD: “It took a foreigner to see hockey’s potential here,” said triple Olympian Mukesh Kumar in tribute to Andreu Enrich, a member of Spain’s 2004 Champions Trophy winning team and founder of ‘Stick Amb L’India’ — an initiative to promote the grassroots level game in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. “Andreu is a role model, who although only 24 years of age, took pains to raise resources and expertise for his dream project,” he said.
A post-graduate in marketing administration from a Barcelona-based business school, Enrich put his education and acumen to good use for the purpose.
One move was to organise a photo exhibition that showcased feats of his club Atletic Terrassa, which contributes half a dozen players each year to Spain’s teams. The club’s lady members sold 600 roses on St. George’s Day.
Support for his effort grew, both in Europe and in Anantapur, where the NGO Rural Development Trust (RDT), hosts the programme. Thanks largely to fund-raising back home, the scheme got under way in December 2005.
Fifteen chosen centres in the district received 300 hockey sticks, 300 balls, 150 cones and 20 goal-keeper pads, with the local schools’ physical directors put in charge.
Since then, Enrich — capped 25 times for Spain — has made month-long visits each year.
He has conducted clinics for the district’s coaches, who in turn imparted their newly-acquired expertise to school-children, aged between 12 and 16.
Help came from all quarters, including team-mate Santi Freixa, junior international Litus Balbe and Clara Vancells, a member of the Spanish women’s side. In July 2007, a residential academy for boys was opened.
Backing for his cause continued, one famous donor being the Netherlands’ assistant coach and leading trainer Thomas Tichelman, who gifted 60 sticks recently.
Enrich’s efforts have received the blessings of Olympic legend Ric Charlesworth and Cedric D’Souza too.
Here with his 25 wards to watch the junior Asian championship, the Spanish left-back said his two goals were to use sports as a social development tool for poor children and to produce at least one international from Anantapur.
On the right track
Attainment of both seems well on its way, the children training with the likes of S.V. Vinay, Hari Prasad and Vikram at the SAI Centre in Bangalore last week.
Eight men — including Xavi Dali, one of Spain’s best coaches — and as many women from his club will arrive by the end of the month to train the academy boys.
As of now, Enrich is striving for government and private funding for an astro-turf at the academy. He plans to play in the Premier Hockey League this year.
As an entrepreneur, he runs all-rankings.com with Ignasi Prap and Xavi Planas a website which has rates things ranging from burgers to skin care products.