Missing Olympics pushes India back: Iqbal

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/h/hockey3.jpg' class='caption'> Hockey selector Zafar Iqbal feels India are far behind other teams in world hockey and missing the Olympics was a huge blow.

Updated: September 09, 2008 06:51 IST
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New Delhi:

Missing just one Olympic Games in 80 years has pushed the Indian hockey team many years behind its rivals in terms of standard and skills, ad-hoc selection committee member Zafar Iqbal said on Thursday.

The former Olympian hinted at a grave situation for Indian hockey post-Beijing Olympics, saying there has been a huge surge in the standard of the game at the world level even as the country is facing dearth of skilled players to match up to that level.

"After watching the competition at Beijing Olympics, we have realised that the standard of hockey has gone very high. In terms of skills, strategy and stamina, it's not the same as it was few years back. New rules have also come up and so its important to improve our skills," Iqbal told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar here.

"Besides, we also have the dearth of skilled players at the moment," he said.

The former captain the game needed to be revived by improving it's standard at the grassroot level.

"Hockey should be revived at the district level and club level. Until this revival happens, it is going to be very difficult to boost the sagging status of hockey in the country," he said.

"India need to work on skill development and create a bench strength by working at the grassroot level."

"It is also important that the state administrations organise more hockey tournaments. They should play more competitions, not only the national championships," Iqbal added.

Iqbal felt hockey should be included in academic curriculum so that more youngsters can take up the game and a culture of sports can be created.

"Sports should be included in the main curriculum of the universities and schools. Even if we look at the European countries, we see most of the participants are students and we should also have a culture of hockey in the colleges and educational institutes," he said.

He said the hockey team had set its eyes on the 2010 World Cup to be played on home soil.

"Our first priority now is the 2010 World Cup that would take place here. We would look to do well here and then look towards the Commonwealth Games and 2012 London Olympics," he said.

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