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Golden Jubilee of Senior Nehru Cup (11/13/2013)
--K. Arumugam
If there is one hockey organization in India that is known for its commitment, singular pursuit of set forth objectives, and doing things on time, year after year, now on fifty count, one name that flashes across minds is undoubtedly the Delhi based Jawaharlal Nehru Hockey Tournament Society (JNHTS).

Formed against the glory of Indian hockey team regaining the Olympic gold in 1964, seventh time, after losing the previous one to arch rival Pakistan, the JNHTS set standards in doing things that are unique of its time.

Be it organizing War Fund, or Welfare Fund for needy players, JNHTS not only did things in style, but also with missionary zeal.

Once the Nehru Senior Cup was put in place in 1964, which the Northern Railways won what with great names like Balkishen Singh, Harbinder Singh on its rolls, it did not rest in laurels.

Naturally so, as its flagship Senior Nehru Cup was just among the best five, being the youngest of the lot -- Beighton, Aga Khan, Bombay Cup and MCC CUP – it went on to innovate.

There came the junior Cup, and then an avenue for girls was conceived and put on place followed by a new platform for Champions Colleges.

As years wore down, the task became surmountable what with organizing costs increasing while on the contrary the public enthusiasm for hockey in general on the wane, mostly due to the falling fortunes of the national team.

The task was not given up, with a team of which Shiv Kumar Varma, founder secretary, had been the fulcrum, and the mission of organizing string of tournaments, followed with summer camp went on uninterrupted. There were times, war, communal disturbance, unending labour unrest, spells that stopped the pulse of nation for unbearably long, but the conduct of the tournament never stopped.

This writer was privy to a discussion between Sayid Hamid, then Chairman of the Organizing Committee and Shiv Kumar Varma. The latter called him to know his president’s view on conduct of tournaments as the Babri Majid demolition had almost cribbed the nation when the time for Nehru Cup had arrived.

Let there at least be one good thing going, we won’t stop our tournament” was what Sayid Saab, who is now Chancellor of Hamdard University said. The JNHTS followed, and then every event of that year were staged with usual fanfare.

Even as National governing body of hockey, Indian Hockey Federation, had to fault on hosting the Nationals due to various factors, the JNHTS did not commit any lapse, and all its tournaments were held on time.

On times, the stadia in Delhi were not available due to renovation like CWG, and on such times the events were taken to nearly cities like Gurgaon, Sonepat, Gwalior, even to Ranchi, but it was seen that no event ever stops.

Such has been the history of Nehru Society.

The history as we recollect on its golden jubilee is good, but the future task seem hard to achieve.

The financial costs of holding a chain of six tournaments become huge each passing year while on the other hand the income sources dry up.

New forms of hockey like Hockey India League catching the imagination of the fans, and the minds of the national body, the significance of all India tournaments such as Nehru is sought to be reduced, and it would require huge human will to stand up and count.

This is what the new secretary of the society, Kukoo Walia is expected to assume.

He has the onerous task of sailing through the times without compromising with quality or quantity of events JNHTS is expected to put on board each year.

Sponsors are hard to come by, but every time a major one skips, another door opens.

ONGC, an organization which has been chipping with so far, now seems a bit disinterested, but the Walia’s team could rope in a pharmaceutical giant on time this year.

Its almost seven lives each year before the festival starts in Delhi on the traditional home, Shivaji stadium.

We hockey fans salute the Society for its pioneering role in proving hockey stuff for so many years.

With increasing discipline issues with the teams, last year Air India walked out protesting an umpiring decision, and everytime most of the age group team stuff over-age players, a lot need to be done.

Being the only non-government, non-Federation platform for grass root and schools hockey, there is a need for the Society to steer clear of issues, stabilize its resources and stand counted in the changing world of sports.

Hope, the Society will continue to accomplish its great role with more vigour in direct proportion to the difficulties it encounters to stay afloat. We, the sport lovers, stand by the Society in the pressing times and wish another Golden Jubilee in its long voyage.

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