'Chak de' moment: Hockey as passion

With a swift flick of the hockey stick, the ball whizzes past the padded up goalie. The victors let out a loud cheer, and even the vanquished applaud.

Updated: July 01, 2012 21:37 IST
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New Delhi: With a swift flick of the hockey stick, the ball whizzes past the padded up goalie. The victors let out a loud cheer, and even the vanquished applaud.

The players are not pros but their passion for hockey is infectious, bringing as it does on weekends a group of professionals and businessmen from different walks of life in an otherwise cricket-crazy city. And their love for the game, once called India's national sport, was further fuelled when they realised they could play at Delhi stadiums where champions have battled for coveted international or national trophies.

"I was at Binsar (Uttarakhand) two days ago when I got the message about a game. We packed our bags and headed home the same day," J.S. Chhatwal, a businessman who owns four showrooms dealing in curtains in Malviya Nagar in south Delhi.

He is so passionate for the game that whenever he has to play in the morning, he opens his showrooms late.

His friend Nikhil Nayyar, a lawyer, who has been playing hockey for the past 12 years, said the game helps him relax after a week of mental dueling in the Supreme Court.

"I enjoy this intense physical exercise. It relaxes me and prepares me for the hectic days ahead," Nayyar told IANS.

This band of 20 professionals and businessmen got together because of their love of the game over 10 years ago and come rain and shine they stand together to indulge in their love for hockey.

"Some of us knew each other because we were in the same profession. It was the passion for hockey that led us to meet other like-minded people. Thus was born our group. We all meet socially on rare occasions, but the game keeps us together," said Delhi High Court lawyer Uttam Datt.

"It all started at Siri Fort sports complex where we still play regularly. But now, every couple of weekends, we hire a stadium and play on a full-fledged competitive field," he added.

Datt, who had stopped playing for some years because of the back problem he sustained during a game, started again when he heard that the group is getting a chance to play at stadiums like Major DhyanChand National Stadium, that was one of the venues for the Commonwealth Games. The group is particularly excited about being able to play on a professional turf in a stadium which has hosted international matches. One such weekend match at Major Dhyanchand National Stadium comes for over Rs. 15,000.

However, the price is worth it, said Harshdeep, a businessman.

"I have been playing hockey for several years now. It's much more exciting to be on a synthetic turf. The game gets faster. I am hooked to it," he said.

The hockey turf is quite different from a football turf and allows for increased pace of the ball and stick maneuverability.

Shahab Ahmed, a physiotherapist by profession, said that while some of them have played the sport at a professional level, the experience was not a requirement as much as a love for the game.

And even those who had played the sport on a professional level but lost touch after beginning their careers, come to play in order to regain that connection with the game and the field.

One of them is Ahmed. "I used to play at state and national level, before returning to Delhi, after which, I lost touch with the game. But now, I play regularly."

However, he agreed that the essential ingredient was passion, not experience.

"We were earlier playing at the Sri Fort grounds. We stopped in between because it was being renovated. But, now I am excited we are playing at the real grounds," Ahmed told IANS.

All of us come together to play regularly. Even the businessmen amongst us, find time on weekends to come and play," said Niki Kantawala, another lawyer, who plays hockey over the weekends without fail.

For all of them, hockey is their 'chak de' moment that adds zing in their everyday humdrum lives.

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