Fans infuse new life into hockey at Punjab Gold Cup

February 8th, 2009 - 5:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Feb 8 (IANS) Cricket in India has always been a major crowd puller but if the swelling crowds at the Sector 42 stadium here for the Punjab Gold Cup hockey are anything to go by, then it seems the national sport is fast catching up.
Each match of the four-nation tournament here has witnessed a packed crowd, largely constituting youngsters, enthusiastically supporting their favourite hockey stars.

“We are hard-core fans of our national sport, hockey and I am happy the number of spectators coming here have outnumbered those at last two international cricket Test matches in Mohali,” said Ajay Sharma, an engineering student, who has been at the stadium for all the matches.

“The best part of this series is that the matches take place in the evening, so it gives us a chance to come here after our college,” he added

According to the tournament organisers, everyday around 15,000-17,000 spectators from the region are coming to see the matches.

“Apart from the local crowd, around 4,500 people from the neighbouring states are coming here daily. We are also bringing around 2,000 school students from various districts of Punjab everyday so that they can see the match,” Harisharan Singh, one of the organiser told IANS Sunday.

These students are also given free transport and meals by the Punjab government.

Simranjit Arora, a class eight student, is thrilled watching hockey matches in a stadium.

“This is for the first time that I have seen a stadium. It is a great experience and I want to come here everyday. Now after seeing these players, I also want to start playing hockey,” said Simranjit, who had come to see the match with his classmates from Patiala.

For Tushar, a hockey fan since the past five years, this series is an opportunity to see his favourite stars live in action.

“I liked the forward attack of Prabhjot and Rajpal and I want India to win the finals against the Netherlands. The entire 70 minutes are so full of energy and interest keeps on mounting with each passing minute.”

Abhijit Sandhu, a former hockey player said: “It is the extraordinary performance by India from the very first day that has made this tournament a big success. We also had similar rush during Premier Hockey League (PHL) matches here.”

For Pargat Singh, director of Sports department, Punjab this series is an inspiration.

“We have received an over-whelming response from both spectators and media. You can call it the revival of the sport. This series will act as an inspiration for us to organise similar tournaments in future.”

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