Bhopal, March 31:(Pervez Bari): Star-studded Air India hockey team flew away with the coveted All India Obaidullah Khan Gold Cup trouncing spirited Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, (BPCL), outfit hands down by five goals to none in the action-filled summit duel at the jam-packed historic Aishbagh stadium here on Monday night.
The hockey dished out by the two teams in the final was of the high order which amply quenched the appetite of hockey-starved citizens of Bhopal, the state capital of central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, which once upon a time used to be called nursery of hockey. The hockey conscious citizens savored every moment of the game when the 64th edition of the tournament was played. They cheered the players in abundance to let adrenaline flow in their blood and excel in the game. The connoisseurs of the game lauded aloud the players and the team when it came with fine moves and passed critical comments whenever a player fumbled at crucial junctures of the game.
The winners Air India were presented Rs. 500,000/- cheque by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. While runners-up BPCL received Rs. 300,000/- cheque. The hard-line match winners Indian Oil Corporation, (IOC), got Rs. 200,000 and the losers Rs. 50,000.
The current India World Cup player Shivendra Singh of Air India was declared Player of the Tournament and received Rs. 10,000 cheque. He had also the honor to be Player of the final Match for his two goals for the team to get another Rs. 5000/- cheque.
The Directorate of Sports & Youth Welfare, Government of Madhya Pradesh, earned kudos from all quarters, players and spectators alike, for organizing the tournament impeccably with untiring efforts of Sports Director Sanjay Chaudhry assisted ably by Joint Director Dr. Vinod Pradhan, Vikas and their team of dedicated officials. To achieve its task of revival of hockey in Bhopal the Madhya Pradesh Government dumped aside the feuding managers of the Bhopal Hockey Association, (BHA), which had split into more than one association each claiming to be the real BHA to control the game. These BHA officials fought in courts to gain control of BHA as players and the spectators suffered in silence with the prestigious All India Obaidullah Khan Gold Cup Tournament going into oblivion for seven long years.
The BPCL players were not overawed by their famed rivals who had a number of former Olympians and a current World Cup player in their ranks having rich experience at their disposal. BPCL gave a horrid time, especially in the first half, to airmen, who had to run for their money. From the very word go BPCL lads made many goal bearing moves to unsettle the Air India players but when it mattered most they floundered inside the circle. The BPCL strikers either shot into the pads of the Air India goalkeeper or waywardly outwards.
The BPCL players in the first half excelled in all departments of the game except for poor finishing which deprived them to register any goal to their credit. They defended also stoutly keeping the airmen most of the time at bay and as such Air India had to remain content with a solitary goal through the stick of Lalit Upadhay at the breather. The famed former Olympian Dhanraj Pillay worked the ball into the semi-circle from his own half where he was dispossessed by BPCL defenders. However, Upadhay following closely snatched the ball and pushed home to the glee of his teammates. At half time the score-line read 1-0 in favor of Air India.
After lemon-break airmen came back with renewed vigor while BPCL players seemed to have lost steam and direction and caved in to the onslaught of the rivals at their citadel. Air India led by their captain Sameer Daad, an ex-Olympian hailing from Bhopal, showed the way as he lunged forward dropping on the ground and outstretching his stick full length to deflect the ball into nets. The move was initiated in the very first minute of the restart (36th minute) by Indian World Cupper Shivendra Singh who dodging a number of players wriggled into the D and centered the ball from right corner for onrushing Sameer to do the needful (2-0).
Ten minutes later in the 46th minute of the game Sameer getting hold of the ball on the left flank near the 25 yard line combined with Dhanraj to dazzle BPCL players with the latter bulging the nets to the surprise if BPCL under the bar (3-0).
Shivendra Singh scored a brace with goals coming in the 51st and 66th minutes of the match to round the final tally at 5-0 to make Air India real champions with a comfortable margin.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was hailed as the hero of hockey saga, presented a cheque of Rs 1.8 million to the India Hockey team as an encouragement amount, for the 18 goals scored by the team in the recently held Hockey World Cup. Chouhan said that the Obaidullah Khan Gold Cup Hockey Tournament would be given an international look by inviting foreign teams.
The Chief Minister further added in his speech that a similar all India level tournament would be held in Bhopal every year for women hockey players also. He added that keeping in mind the State Government’s move to encourage hockey, one school in every district would be developed as a hockey training centre.
Chouhan gave the cheque of Rs 1.8 million to the Indian Hockey Team in response to the promise made by him before the beginning of the World Cup, that the State Government would pay Rs 100,000 to every player who scores a goal in the World Cup.
He also declared that a summer camp would be held for the hockey players, adding that each hockey team would be provided with an amount of Rs 50,000 as traveling allowance, for participating in different events.
The Chief Minister also said that training arrangements for 18-18 players would be made at the academy. Chouhan announced a lot of other facilities benefiting the hockey players. Famous former hockey player Dhanraj Pillay said that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had become a hero by giving a respectful status to hockey. (firstname.lastname@example.org)