Khelo India hockey without a venue as Covid delays construction of astro-turf

COVID-19 Sports

Shifting tourney to another city being considered

Panchkula: A delay in the construction of an astro-turf hockey ground due to the second wave of Covid-19 has left the 2021 Khelo India Youth Games hockey tournament without a venue.

“The astro-turf hockey ground has been proposed to be built at the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, but now due to the second wave and the lockdown, plans have come to a halt,” Rajinder Gupta, district sports and youth affairs officer, Panchkula, informed The Observer.

After the third edition of the Khelo India Youth Games in Guwahati, Haryana was selected to host the fourth edition. The city of Panchkula, which houses the Tau Devi Lal Sport Complex, was chosen to host a majority of the events. It expects 10,000 players and officials to participate in the games.

“We already have a world-class multi-purpose hall and badminton hall. The hockey turf was also set to come up. Even funding was cleared by the ministry, but now we’ve hit a roadblock,” added Gupta.

With the games scheduled to be held in November, Gupta hopes the second wave will subside at the earliest and work on the hockey turf can be resumed.

As reported in The Indian Express in June 2020, Haryana sports minister Sandeep Singh had promised that any infrastructural shortcomings would be resolved before the games. 

Arunkant Sharma, deputy director, ministry of sports and youth affairs, Haryana, said: “We had earmarked a budget of around Rs 6-8 crore for the hockey turf. We were now preparing to release the tender also but the second wave has ruined our plans.” 

Sharma does not rule out the possibility of shifting the venue of the hockey tournament to another city.

“Two events during the games – gymnastics and swimming – are already planned to happen in Ambala. We spent close to Rs 6 crore on the Army complex that’ll host these two events. So we could also shift the hockey tournament to another city,” Sharma added. 

However, he agrees that having multiple events scheduled in different cities might lead to logistical problems for the organisers. “We will try our best to get the turf built in Panchkula or go to the nearby city of Chandigarh.”

The lack of an astro-turf in Panchkula also proves to be a hindrance in training budding hockey players in the city.

Meena Siwach, a hockey coach at the Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector-7, Panchkula, said: “Our city does not have a proper hockey ground. I am unable to give them proper training as an astro-turf requires a different technique than the surface we play on.” 

Players from Siwach’s academy travel to Chandigarh to play competitive matches. They struggle on a different surface there. 

Citizens of Panchkula hope the games are successfully held in their city.

“I often go and watch football and cricket matches at the sports complex. It woud be great if the hockey turf is built and the tournament is held in Panchkula,” said Satbir Singh, a resident of the city.

The Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex has held various major sporting events like Indian Cricket League, Pro Kabaddi League and I-League in the past. 

With the complex having all major sporting facilities available, the people of Panchkula now long to see a world- class hockey pitch built in the complex. 

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