Few people in the city are even aware of the fact that we are currently hosting roller hockey matches. The inter-state competition that has teams from Vizag, Karimnagar and Hyderabad got off to a flying start with a senior women’s match between Karimnagar and Hyderabad on Tuesday. The team from Karimnagar won by one goal. But despite the enthusiasm on behalf of the players, there were barely 50 people in the audience.
Roller hockey might enjoy a better popularity across the country, but in Andhra Pradesh it is barely acknowledged. For Hyderabadis, cricket still rules and other sports are relegated to the back burner. However, this lack of interest does not deter the players. “It’s our own interest and passion for this sport that drives us here. We have no support from the government in any way. In Hyderabad, many people are not even aware of this sport. It’s only our family and friends who come to watch the match and support us,” says Priyanka B, a national level player.
There are more than 900 roller hockey players in the city who have won several national championships. However, these players are self-supported and have no sponsorships whatsoever. Even the government of AP does not support them.
Despite hockey being conferred the title of national sport, there is no denying that it doesn’t play well for one to become a professional player in the country. Until 2003 the government gave each national player Rs 1165, but today they get nothing but a certificate. “Ten years ago, we had only eight teams from four districts but now we have 43 teams from 16 districts. Despite our players placing AP on the national hockey scene, we have no support from the government,” says Naveen Tataipala, joint secretary, Roller Hockey Technician Association.
Parents and teachers feel that this sport lacks awareness and support in Hyderabad. “There are so many students who get admission in good colleges because of this certificate. However, the State government seems to turn a blind eye to this. Players buy their own kit, uniform and spend from their own pocket for travelling and accommodation. Most players have to rely on their families to support them. But those who can’t are forced to let go of their dreams of becoming national level players,” says Anitha T, a parent.
Despite the stadia for roller hockey being maintained well, it is the players who don’t get their due or encouragement of any sort. “In the last budget, Rs 6 cores was sanctioned to the ministry of sports. But ironically most of the money was used by the politician to build stadia for their personal gains and nothing was spent on the players,” says a member of the roller skater association of AP.
“In the last 14 years that I have been playing this sport, not once has the government done anything to support us. We travel to other cities to play and it is all at our own expense. There is no encouragement at all. We bring name and fame to the State but in return we don’t even get a token of appreciation,” laments Aarti Attal, captain, Karimnagar senior women’s team.