Madurai to the fore

It is a paradox of sorts that Tamil Nadu, despite its long history and tradition in hockey, has very few tournaments for women. Perhaps the current generation may not be aware that Madras, along with Mysore, figured prominently in the National Championships for years. The slump came somewhere in the latter half of the 1960s.

Against this background the endeavour of the Winning XI Women’s Hockey Club and the moving force behind it, J. Mothi Singh, in conducting the annual state-level competition for over 15 years must be commended. It’s a creditable record indeed.

Started in 1980 with seven teams in the fray, the 2009 edition of the tournament, which concluded in Chennai recently, had 20 teams — three more than last year — from across the state vying for the trophy. That 11 of them were outstation units underscores the popularity of the tournament which, over the years, came to be associated with memories of hockey officials like D. S. Rajamanickam, Firoze Ali Sheroff and Dhanraj.

In a thrilling final that was resolved in the last five minutes, Madurai defeated Punitha Arokiya Club, Keeranur, 2-1 to retain the trophy. Madurai trailed 0-1 at half-time, following a goal by Vidya in the fourth minute. However, led admirably by striker Pavithra, Madurai regained its rhythm and staged a splendid fightback. Pavithra was declared the Player of the Final and received the special prize donated by former goalkeeper of Southern Railway, Thomas Choke, in memory of Jimmy Carr who died a few weeks ago.

That not one local team figured in the semifinals should pose some concern to the city’s hockey administrators. On the contrary, the girls from the districts stole the show and Pavithra was one example. Teams from Thiruvallur, Mayiladuthurai and Keeranur displayed a lot of verve and enthusiasm.

Like last year, S. R. Bhasgeran, HWHC’s patron, sponsored the prize money (Rs.70,000) of the tournament and special prizes. The winner picked up Rs. 40,000, with the second- and third-placed teams getting Rs. 20,000 and 10,000 respectively.

Amaresh Pujari, IGP, Police Training, and Dr. Elizabeth Varghese, Chancellor, Hindustan University, gave away the prizes in the presence of Walter I. Dawaram, President, Tamil Nadu Athletics Association.