Delhi’s Shivaji Stadium to host HIL matches

After years of neglect and being treated as second-rate, the iconic Shivaji Stadium is set to witness a lot of glitz and glamour after being decided as the venue for Delhi matches in the fourth edition of the Hockey India League.

The Shivaji Stadium not only boasts better connectivity and accessibility for the public vis-a-vis its predecessor but is also more compact and spectator-friendly.   -  V. V. Krishnan

After years of neglect and being treated as second-rate, the iconic Shivaji Stadium is set to witness a lot of glitz and glamour after being decided as the venue for Delhi matches in the fourth edition of the Hockey India League.

The decision was taken after suggestions from the city-based Delhi Waveriders franchise and a series of checks by all parties involved, including Hockey India and the broadcasters. Federation officials confirmed the decision. Sources said HI CEO Elena Norman had checked out the technical and security feasibility of the venue before finalising. The Waveriders played their home games for the first three editions at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

“There were a lot of reasons, including logistics and ease of access. There are fewer formalities to be completed and fewer hassles. NDMC also cooperated a lot. We also thought Shivaji Stadium ensured a better connect for the sport with the spectators,” a senior HI official said.

The Shivaji Stadium not only boasts better connectivity and accessibility for the public vis-a-vis its predecessor but is also more compact and spectator-friendly. While the seating capacity is only half – 7,000 to 16,500 for National Stadium – the stadium design brings the action much closer to the public.

Witness to several exciting games, both domestic and international, in its over 50-year existence, the Shivaji Stadium is also more identifiable as the home of Delhi hockey. The stadium underwent extensive renovations for the Commonwealth Games but delay in completion meant it was re-opened for competitions only in October 2012 after a five-year break.

Since then, it has hosted several domestic events including the Nehru Cup and Shastri hockey. Matches at Shivaji Stadium often attract more crowds than the National Stadium. Old-timers recall fondly the close games of the Delhi hockey league featuring some of the biggest names – including the likes of Dhanraj Pillay, Ajitpal Singh and Mohd Shahid – in action.

“Yes, it is confirmed. The stadium has been booked for HIL games this year and part of the booking amount has also been submitted,” a stadium official said.

Former India international and coach of the Waveriders, Baljit Singh Saini, admitted he had forwarded the option and welcomed the decision. “I was asked about the venue and I said I personally preferred the venue. I have played at both venues and I can safely say that it is always more exciting to play at Shivaji Stadium. I really welcome it if a decision has been taken. It would be a lot more exciting for the public,” Saini said.