Hockey’s new home in old Delhi

Students playing hockey at Anglo Arabic School

The hard concrete floor of the basketball court adjoins a large, open ground overrun with tall grass and is overlooked by crammy rooms with the occasional window. It's burning hot despite the trees all around and a group of 15 kids are getting ready to sweat it out. It's not an ideal location for learning the basics of hockey, but then, neither is the location of the school, whose backyard is now being used to try and develop Indian hockey at the grassroots in the city.

Right at the beginning of Shradhhanand Marg — the notorious old Delhi area that comes alive at night- stands the Anglo-Arabic senior secondary school, a 300-year-old institution that has now been declared a heritage building. Once known for its interest in hockey — one of its more prominent alumni was Mirza Nasiruddin Masud, vice-captain of the gold-winning Indian team at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin —the only outdoor activity at the school presently happens to be football. But for about 25 kids who were introduced to hockey by an NGO in May, the sport has quickly become a way to channel their extra energy and also dream of greater sporting glories.

Mohammed Hasan, 12, stands out in the crowd because of his restlessness. The class VI student with a permanent twinkle had never seen a hockey game till he was handed a stick by K Arumugam, who runs the One Thousand Hockey Legs, a programme to revive the sport in schools across India. "Pehle sab ke jaise gali me cricket khelte the, par maza nahi aata tha. Hockey me maza aata hai bhagne me, khelne me, stick se ball sambhalne me (earlier I used to play cricket like everyone else but it didn't excite me. Running, controlling the ball with a stick in hockey is better)," he says.

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