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ACW 2007: Women's Asia Cup History Part I (1/24/2004)
--Arumugam
Women Jan 21, 2004. With hardly ten days left for the 5th women’s Asia Cup to unfurl in New Delhi, it’s appropriate to look at India’s initiative in the spectrum of women hockey. It entails reviewing India’s role in promoting sports on the world stage.

Indians can achieve, but cannot document them for the benefit of posterity. This is a fact. As result of such malfeance, hardly are many young Indians in the know of either their full heritage or their forefather’s contributions to the betterment of human welfare on the global stage. Though it is applicable to their many walks of life, nowhere it is so prominent as in the case of sports.

How many of us are aware that we are the first Asian country to get affiliated to the International Olympics Committee? How many of us know how many Asian sports meet that India conceived, gave concrete shape thereto and then spent enormous money to host them on its soil. Western Asiatic Games and Asian Games are some of them. Afro-Asian Games is the latest. Those who give idea has to bear the expenses too. This had been the unwritten dictum in those days. India therefore staged these tournaments too. First editions of both Western Asiatic Games and Asian Games were held in Delhi in 1934 and 1951, respectively. In the same true tradition, India proposed and successfully hosted the first Afro-Asian Games recently in which about 90 countries took part at Hyderabad, a southern metro. India’s Ashwini Kumar is the first from the whole of Asia, Africa and Latin America continents to become the vice-president of IOC and its lone Security Delegate for 18 continuous years.

The first Asian nation to get admitted to the Federation Internationale de Hockey (FIH), India’s contribution to the sport of hockey in particular too is very substantial. It’s with the India’s efforts (G.D. Sondhi’s in particular) hockey was introduced in the Asian Games in its third edition in 1958. Just as 40 years later Malaysia put hockey in the Commonwealth Games. India was also successful in getting hockey into the South Asian Federation Games (Other hosts have subsequently omitted hockey) and of late in the Afro-Asian Games.

With such a glorious history behind, could the ladies stay behind? Certainly No. India mooted formation of Asian association for women in the early 60s, particularly during the 1962 Ahmedabad International tournament. Incidentally, the Ahmedabad International Tournament was another first for India, being the first major international hockey tournament outside Europe in which as many as 12 countries participated. Soon, as a follow up, an ad hoc Asian Women Hockey Association was formed with Lucknow’s Aizaz Rasool, then president of the All India Women Hockey Association, as its first president and Japan’s Mrs. Iwsa the Secretary. The first meeting of the Asian Women Hockey Association was held in New Delhi in 1964, the next one during the Tokyo Olympics the same year.

India and Japan then joined together to propose Asian Championship in which many African countries were also invited to participate. With some South East Asians like Singapore and Malaysia withdrew at the last minute, India fielded two teams to make up two pool of three teams each. Besides India, Kenya, Ceylon, Uganda and Japan played the championship at New Delhi in early 1968. Japan won the Asian Championship final defeating Uganda, an African nation! Four years later, All Indian Women Hockey Association become the first Asian National Women Association to get into the FIH, whose statues then provided for two associations for each country, one for men’s the other for women’s.

Women competitions in Asia took a roller coster ride subsequently. To cut the matter short, let us move to 1980. Indian women’s participation in the 1980 Moscow Olympics served a booster for them to yearn more. As India hosted the 1982 Asian Games, it managed to bring the Women Hockey into its fold, a watershed development in the growth of women hockey. Thus a new chapter for women has commenced. In 1982 New Delhi Asiad, the pioneer India won the first Asian Games gold, which even after 23 years remains the solitary gold them. Before the 1986 Asian Games, South Korea hosted the first edition of the (modern?) Women’s Asia Cup at Seoul.

India’s historical initiatives in the development of women hockey at Asia and African levels are thus laudable. Sounds like jarring notes? At least viewed from the present status of India not even in the Olympics Qualifier?

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