The Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium and its enduring love with hockey

The Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium located within the centre of Chennai metropolis in Egmore holds a particular place within the hearts of hockey followers, gamers, and officers alike.

Earlier known as the Company Stadium, which used to have hockey gravel floor, tennis courts, basketball and volleyball, it was rebuilt and renamed because the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium.

Constructed for the SAF Video games in 1995, the complicated now has hockey (synthetic turf), tennis and volleyball.

The stadium attained worldwide fame for internet hosting fairly a couple of worldwide hockey matches — just like the SAF Video games (1995), two editions of the Champions Trophy (1996 & 2005), an Asia Cup (2007), the India-Pakistan sequence (1999) and the India-Belgium sequence (2008). It has additionally been the venue for quite a few home tournaments together with the MCC-Murugappa All India Gold Cup and innumerable Chennai Hockey Affiliation league matches.

Star attraction: India’s Dhanraj Pillay strikes previous Pakistan’s Naveed Alam within the SAF Video games remaining which India gained 5-2. on December 26, 1995.
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Greater than the epic matches, robust rivalries amongst groups and gamers, it’s the spectators’ love for the Nationwide sport that has performed an enormous half in hockey’s recognition on this a part of the area.

“When we played for the senior Tamil Nadu team or the Railways team, be it practice or tournaments, there would always be a set of elderly people who used to come to watch us. They were hardcore fans who used to honour players if they played well and would not hesitate to criticise if they played badly. It was an ambience we enjoyed,” says C.R. Kumar, coach of the Indian junior males’s group which gained the Asia Cup just lately.

One of the best half, in keeping with former nationwide captain V. Baskaran — who was a part of the committee entrusted in laying the bogus turf together with one other Olympian Munir Sait amongst others for the SAF Video games — has been the spectators who proceed to end up in enormous numbers for the finals of each home and Worldwide tournaments.

Packed to the rafters: Spectators support has always been a feature of matches at this venue, like this scene from 1996 Champions Trophy on December 13, 1996.

Packed to the rafters: Spectators help has at all times been a characteristic of matches at this venue, like this scene from 1996 Champions Trophy on December 13, 1996.
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The Hindu Archives

“The crowd used to be full every time we hosted an international tournament, or a domestic tournament or a local league. The reason was that the stadium was close to areas that have a history of supporting hockey. The areas like Thousand Lights, Vepery, Triplicane, Royapettah and Mylapore all had hockey teams,” says Baskaran.

Mohammed Riaz, former India skipper, remembers the time when there was a gentle interruption in the course of the SAF Video games hockey remaining between India and Pakistan — the place he was one of many gamers — due to overcrowding. “The fencing broke as there were too many people. The final was stopped for around 10 minutes.”

Highlighting the information of the followers, Riaz stated they might reel out specific group line-up with out the checklist of their arms. “The proximity of the stadium to top-class hotels, and railway station was one the reasons for many people including senior citizens turning up,” he says. Riaz remembers how an additional gallery was put as much as accommodate extra individuals in the course of the 1999 India-Pakistan sequence in Chennai and the 1996 Champions Trophy, a side that took the then Netherlands coach Roelant Oltmans without warning.

Holland's Van Mijk Remco about to beat the German goalkeeper, Kowalczek Nils, for the winning goal in the Kuber-Champions Trophy hockey tournament Jin Chennai on Monday. Holland defeated Germany, 2-1, in this hotly contested match.

Holland’s Van Mijk Remco about to beat the German goalkeeper, Kowalczek Nils, for the profitable purpose within the Kuber-Champions Trophy hockey event Jin Chennai on Monday. Holland defeated Germany, 2-1, on this hotly contested match.
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The Hindu Archives

It was as one such spectator that S. Karthi, one of many present forwards within the Indian males’s group, watched gamers resembling P.R. Sreejesh and S.V. Sunil in motion. “I was a 13-year-old student of Sports Hostel of YMCA (Chennai). I was excited seeing them play for the first time at the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup. The crowd was excited and so was I,” says the 21-year-old, who has secured a job with Revenue Tax.

The turf has seen world class gamers of the calibre of Shahbaz Khan, Tahir Zaman (each Pakistan), Stephen Veen (Australia), Teun de Nooijer (Netherlands) and Dhanraj Pillay (India), amongst others. It’s for sure that the 2 Champions Trophy editions and the Asia Cup drew a near-full home. When India defeated South Korea to carry the Asia Cup, the cheers from a packed stadium confirmed Indians’ love with hockey remained intact.

For younger gamers from the districts used to enjoying on grass and gravel, the enjoyment they felt on getting into the stadium was unrivalled to say the least.

Vinod Rayer first got here right here in 1999 for the ‘Catch them young’ programme from Tiruchi and since then has performed inter-Sports activities hostel tournaments, the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup and the CHA league matches.

Sukhjeet Singh (right) of  Punjab National Bank and Rajat Sharma of Indian Navy in action during the 93rd All India  MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium in Chennai on September 07, 2019.

Sukhjeet Singh (proper) of Punjab Nationwide Financial institution and Rajat Sharma of Indian Navy in motion in the course of the 93rd All India MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey event on the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium in Chennai on September 07, 2019.
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M. Vedhan

“When I first played on the artificial turf, I felt really really good. Since then whenever I play here, I get goosebumps. There is a sense of happiness and fulfillment I get which I don’t get from anywhere else,” says the 37-year-old Tamil Nadu participant, now an assistant supervisor with Indian Abroad Financial institution (Chennai).

Seventytwo-year-old V.J. Philips, a World Cup gold medallist, feels that Hockey Unit of Tamil Nadu (HUTN) hasn’t recognised the Olympic and World Cup medallists, however acknowledges that the appearance of the bogus turf noticed a spurt in kids taking over the game. “There have been a lot of activities after 1994. Players have got better, but a lot of work remains to be done at the grassroots level,” he says.

Work on relaying the artificial turf, in time for the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament, in progress at the stadium.

Work on relaying the bogus turf, in time for the Asian Champions Trophy hockey event, in progress on the stadium.
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With the turf set to be relaid by mid-July for the Asian Champions Trophy — scheduled from August 3 to 12 — there’s certain to be a revival of the game within the metropolis.

The Authorities of Tamil Nadu is planning to host a number of worldwide occasions sooner or later and is eager on enhancing the infrastructure in districts.

“I believe fans will throng the stadium for the Asian Champions Trophy. There will be people from other districts flocking here. Moreover, HUTN is doing a major rehaul in terms of seating arrangements for the spectators and dressing rooms, so we can expect good times for the sport,” provides Kumar.

For HUTN and the Authorities of Tamil Nadu, the work doesn’t begin and finish with the Asian Champions Trophy. As an alternative, they need to utilise the magnificent facility of the renovated Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium to kickstart a renaissance.

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