New Delhi: Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju on Thursday said that sports will not be played in the same way in the post-coronavirus era, urging hockey players to get ready to adjust themselves to the changes.
Rijiju said this during an interaction with the senior men’s and women’s hockey teams, which are currently housed in the Sports Authority of India’s National Centre of Excellence in Bengaluru over video conference. The minister sought suggestions from over 40 athletes, coaches, and the high-performance director, to resume on-field training after the lockdown is lifted.
“The Standard Operation Procedure (SOPs) is being drawn up. Now we have the inputs from coaches and hockey players. We will resume practice soon but in a controlled manner. Those technicalities have to be drawn up by health experts in consultation with the coaches, federation officials and the government,” said Rijiju.
“I assure that we will extend all support to get our athletes back on the ground to train, but we must be careful. We cannot afford to risk the health of even one athlete because that will jeopardise the entire training plan. We must accept that in post-Covid-era sports will not be played in the same way and we will have to adjust to the changes and move forward,” he added.
The online meeting was attended by Ravi Mital, Secretary Sports, Sandip Pradhan, Director General, SAI, Narinder Dhruv Batra, president, Indian Olympic Association, Md Mushtaque Ahmad, President, Hockey India, David John, High-Performance Director, Hockey India, hockey coaches Graham Reid, Sjoerd Marijne, and other senior officials of the hockey federation.
The athletes and coaches spoke of the need to resume training in small batches on 4-5 players within the SAI campus. Men’s team captain Manpreet Singh said the resumption of training will help them make a start towards Olympic preparations.
“If we are able to start training on basic skills and specialised skills in small batches and work on other techniques like penalty corners, it will help the teams to make a start towards Olympic preparations,” Singh said.
Rani Rampal, captain of the women’s team, said: “We are safer here than we would be even at home. I feel we can start training while following protocols of health and social distancing.”
“It is important for us to be in top mental shape and if we start training it can help us refresh our minds and handle homesickness. Since there will be no events in the next few months, staying focussed on the game will be tough unless we start to train,” said Sreejesh PR.
Hockey India president Ahmad said that they must chart the way forward for the junior teams to start their practice as well because the Junior Hockey World Cup is also approaching.
“We will need sustained support of the government in these difficult times. And once the senior teams are back to on-field training, we must also chart the way forward for the junior teams to start their practice since the Junior Hockey World Cup is also scheduled in 2021,” Ahmad said.
Stressing that the teams are not at a disadvantage vis-a-vis other national teams, who have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, David John said: “Most countries in the world have not been able to resume sports training yet. Only Holland and Belgium have started training and that too in small groups.”
“If we resume training soon, we will be on the right track and probably at an advantage. The players have used the two months to study in detail the moves of opponent teams and players and I think that will be a huge advantage,” said John. (ANI)