One of India’s oldest hockey tournaments, the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup, will be returning to the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium in Chennai after a lengthy COVID-19-induced hiatus on August 24.
The Gold Cup, originally started as the Madras Challenge Cup in 1901, was last held in 2019.
This year, the tournament, which will see 10 teams pooled into two groups, turns 94, and the prize money is set to witness a considerable hike. The winning team will take home ₹7 lakh, while the runner-up gets ₹5 lakh, compared to ₹6 lakh and ₹3.5 lakh, respectively, in the last edition.
“We are happy to host this tournament, which has come back after a break of four years due to the pandemic. In addition, the recently concluded Asian Champions Trophy in the city has also created a buzz around hockey. The focus of the Tamil Nadu State government on developing field sports, such as hockey, is commendable,” said Arun Murugappan, executive chairman of Tube Investments of India Ltd., a tournament sponsor.
Murugappan reminisced about the days when spectators thronged to see matches. “That was the best time when Ajitpal Singh, Zafar Iqbal, and Mohd. Shahid played. We are doing our best to bring back the crowd. We will continue to run the tournament for as long as we can on an annual basis. We will try and make it better every year,” he said.
Arun and MCC president B. Vijayakumar pleaded with Hockey India to let the best national team players play in the tournament, something that has not happened for a while. “For being one of the premier events in India, we don’t get the Indian players to play,” lamented Arun.
Vijayakumar said, “We at Madras Cricket Club, aim to promote hockey on a large scale and are conducting the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup Hockey tournament every year. International hockey has returned to Chennai after 16 years, and our tournament is being played after four years... Now we have teams asking us for entries. Earlier, we used to ask them for entries.”
Earlier this year, Chennai hosted the Asian Champions Trophy, where the Indian men’s hockey team emerged as champion after securing a narrow 4-3 win over Malaysia. The Gold Cup will be the second major tournament that the city will be hosting.
“I think Madras (Chennai) is a sports-loving fraternity. People come in large numbers to support their favourite team, irrespective of the type of sport. The Asian Champions Trophy saw a huge turnout, and the spin-off of that, I hope, is this tournament. Many top talents across the country will be taking part in the competition, and that will help in bringing in more people into the stadium,” said B.M. Bopanna, organising secretary of the Murugappa Group.
At the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup 2023, Indian Oil Corporation will be defending its title. The tournament, which will be played on a league-cum-knockout basis, will have the top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals. The last-four games will be played on September 2, while the final will be held on September 3.
The tournament will kick off on August 23 with a commemorative exhibition match between the host MCC and Mercara Downs Golf Club from Coorg.
(With inputs from K. Keerthivasan)
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