After football, Tata Trusts focus on grassroots hockey

football icon league 260New Delhi: After setting up grassroots-level talent-hunt programmes in remote parts of the country for budding footballers, Tata Trusts have set their eyes on unearthing future hockey stars in Maoist-hit Jharkhand.

Speaking to IANS after felicitating the inaugural Indian Women's League (IWL) champions Eastern Sporting Union team at the R.K. Khanna Tennis Stadium here on Wednesday, Tata Trusts head of sports Anand Datla said more than 2,300 kids aged between 10 and 14 years are currently undergoing training at Khunti district in Jharkhand.

With technical aid from the Netherlands-based Bovelander Hockey Academy, Tata Trusts will also extend its wings to neighbouring Odisha, which is considered a nursery for hockey talent having given hockey stars like Dilip Tirkey, Ignesh Tirkey and Birendra Lakra, among others, Datla said.

"We are trying to use Khunti as a regional centre for hockey. Numbers are big, 2,300 trainees, 65 schools and 25 school and community grounds for training," he said.

"Yes, Odisha definitely is in the pipeline considering the huge reservoir of talent the state has in the game. But as of now, we are providing a platform to the kids in Jharkhand and we hope to have many kids shining at the international stage in the near future," he added.

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The hockey training is conducted in four-month training cycles. The first with 1,200 children from 32 schools was from July to December last year, delayed by two months due to teething problems, while the second started from December itself with 1,100 children from 33 schools.

The children are trained by master trainers six days a week. The Dutch team trains local trainers under the banner of One Million Hockey Legs, a talent nurturing initiative for India's national sport for which the country had earlier signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Netherlands.