30 state teams to meet in Pune for 11th Hockey India Senior Men’s National Championship

Around 600 members of the 30 state teams will start arriving from next week and all of them will have to mandatorily undergo RT-PCR tests in view of a threat over the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

As many as 30 states are set to fight for the national honours in the 11th Hockey India Senior Men’s National Championship slated to begin from December 11 at Major Dhyanchand Hockey Stadium in Nehrunagar-Pimpri.

Around 600 members of the 30 state teams will start arriving from next week and all of them will have to mandatorily undergo RT-PCR tests in view of a threat over the Omicron variant of Covid-19. The organisers said the stadium, where several fire incidents have taken place due to poor maintenance, has been renovated and is suitable to host the national tournament.

The 10-day event will be hosted by Hockey Maharashtra and co-hosted by the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation and the Pimpri-Chinchwad Police.

Officials of Hockey Maharashtra said each team will have 20 members and even if they possess RT-PCR test reports, most of them will have to undergo the tests again upon arrival.

“The state government has made it mandatory that an individual arriving in Maharashtra should have a negative RT-PCR test report conducted within 72 hours of arrival. Most of the teams are travelling from other states. They will take two-three days to arrive. That means if they have undergone a test in their state, they will have to undergo another test after arrival,” said M Bhore, honorary secretary, Maharashtra Hockey. PCMC and the Dr D Y Patil Hospital have made arrangements for conducting the tests, he added.

Meanwhile, both PCMC and the police said there is no need for an approval from the state government to hold the event. “The government has not banned any sporting activity. Therefore, there is no need for a special permission,” said Pimpri-Chinchwad Police Commissioner Krishna Prakash. “We will be on alert as things are changing every day in view of the Omicron threat,” said Municipal Commissioner Rajesh Patil.

As for the spectators, Bhore said they are waiting for the government guidelines. “We have made arrangements to bring schoolchildren to watch the matches. The guidelines are expected to be received by Monday,” he said.

On the facilities and the state of the carpet at the polygrass stadium, Bhore said, “PCMC has put in a new mat and also improved facilities at the stadium. We have no complaints regarding the condition of the stadium.” In the past, PCMC had come under criticism for poor maintenance and upkeep of the stadium where rats had once chewed up the mat.

Sushma Shinde, who heads PCMC sports department, said, “We have spent over Rs 4 crore to put in all the required facilities and improve upon the existing ones. The stadium is fit to host the national tournament.”

Stating that the stadium has undergone drastic changes, the PCMC commissioner said, “It’s a privilege to host the blue-ribbon tournament, which over the years has proved to be a platform for many stars who have gone on to represent and make India proud at various levels. On PCMC’s part, we have left no stone unturned to make Major Dhyanchand Hockey Stadium a facility that matches with the best in India.”

Shinde added, “When PCMC was approached to host the championship, we decided to go ahead with the objective of showcasing our facilities and encouraging the sport. The stadium has undergone a major overhaul, including a serene FIH-approved blue field and improvised infrastructure adhering to the international norms. We undertook the task with an aim of leaving behind a legacy that can further be developed into a world class facility over the years.”

Hockey Maharashtra said this time around, the Nationals will follow a new format as decided by the national body wherein only state units will be seen in action. “Earlier, institutional units were also a part of the event which was played as one combined championship and later, the format was changed to a two-tier one with Divisions A and B,” said Bhore.

Krishna Prakash, IPS, Chairman, Organising Committee and Associate Vice President, Hockey Maharashtra, said “It’s an honour for me to take responsibility to do my bit for a sport that has brought a smile to millions for its exploits over the years. Being a sportsperson, the position that Hockey Maharashtra entrusted upon me was grabbed with open hands to be associated with a sport that has a golden history in India.”

For Hockey Maharashtra, this will be the 10th time that they will be hosting any National championship. Among the many hosted so far, the 2021 edition of the Senior Men’s National Championship will be the third ever. Earlier, Pune hosted the 3rd and 5th editions back in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

Manish Anand, Vice President, Hockey Maharashtra, said, “Hockey Maharashtra has always been ready to host National-level competitions. The interest from hockey-loving people has been profound which gives us the motivation and encouragement to host the best.”

The championship will be played on a league cum knock out basis, with the 30 teams divided into eight groups of four teams each, of which two groups — A and B — comprise three teams each.

The group toppers will advance to the knockout round, which incidentally is the quarterfinals. The 10-day Championship will witness over 50 matches.

Bhore added, “The Nationals will be exciting this time, owing to the new format Hockey India has adopted. For sure, the competition will be on an even keel as only the states are participating.”

The other partners of the tournament include, ABTP — Abhinav Bindra Targeting Performance (sports medicine partners), Dr D Y Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune (medical partner), Unique Delta Force Security Pvt Limited (security partner), BVG (housekeeping partner).

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