Union Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju has said hockey practice can be resumed by the senior men’s and women’s teams soon in a controlled environment. Rijiju held a series of online meetings with athletes and national sporting federations to get sports back on track. He interacted with the hockey teams housed in the National Centre of Excellence of the Sports Authority of India (SAI), Bangalore and sought suggestions from over 40 athletes, coaches and the high-performance director, to resume on-field training after the lockdown is lifted. “The SOP is being drawn up and now we have the inputs from coaches and hockey players. We will resume practice soon but in a controlled manner. Those technicalities have to be drawn up by health experts in consultation with coaches, federation officials and the government. I assure that we will extend all support to get our athletes back on the ground to train, but we must be careful.
We cannot afford to risk the health of even one athlete because that will jeopardise the entire training plan. We must accept that in the post Covid-era, sports will not be played the same way and we will have to adjust to changes and move forward,” the minister said. After the interaction, Minister Rijiju assured athletes and coaches that training within the campus will be resumed, but only upon implementation of SOP framed by the SAI committee. The SOP is being prepared after consultation with medical experts and national sporting federations. Men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh said, “If we are able to start training on basic skills and specialised skills in small batches and work on other techniques like penalty corners, it will help the teams to make a start towards Olympics preparations.” Similarly, women’s team captain Rani Rampal said while the athletes were in top shape, they wanted to get back on the field to build stamina and remain focused for the Olympics.
“We are safer here than we would be even at home. I feel we can start training while following protocols of health and social distancing,” Rampal said. Hockey India President Md. Mushtaque Ahmad suggested, “We will need sustained support of the government in these difficult times. And once the senior teams are back to on-field training, we must also chart the way forward for the junior teams to start their practice since the Junior Hockey World Cup is also scheduled in 2021.” The athletes and coaches spoke of the need to resume training in small batches of 4-5 players within the SAI campus. The online meeting was attended by Ravi Mital, Secretary, Sports; Sandip Pradhan, Director General, SAI; Dr. Narinder Dhruv Batra, President, Indian Olympic Association; Md. Mushtaque Ahmad; David John, High Performance Director, Hockey India; hockey coaches Graham Reid, Sjoerd Marijne and other senior hockey federation officials.