CHANDIGARH, JAN 29 :Slowly but steadily hockey fever seems to catching on in Chandigarh. Today the European champions Holland, ranked third in the world, arrived here to participate in the Four-Nation Punjab Gold Cup International Hockey Tournament to be held here from January 31 to February 9. And within two hours of their arrival they were taking jogging rounds on the Sector 42 hockey turf. Their physical trainer virtually led the joggers as they made four rounds.
With New Zealand already in the city and Olympic champions Germany deferring their arrival by almost six hours because of foggy conditions.
The trainees at the nearby Chandigarh Hockey Academy could not have asked for a better coaching session as they watched the European champions warming up. The Dutch strikers could be seen dribbling down and striking at the goalpost.
The Dutch players are tall and well built and their aggressive style of hockey was evident from the way they trapped and fired, the ball virtually sizzling through the just watered astroturf.
For the third-ranked Dutch it is their first feel of the greens in India after 30 years. And they are all set to meet every challenge because it will be virtually under the same circumstances that they will be playing in the 2010 World Cup to be hosted by India.
Former national coach and international hockey player Sukhvir Grewal, who was busy looking after the last minute arrangements at the hockey stadium, asked the Dutch coach if they would like to practice in one hour separate shifts tomorrow. The answer was:"give us full two hours from 11 a.m. We want another full stint before the tournament gets under way on Saturday.
The New Zealand team had a two-hour workout in the morning and will have another go on the turf tomorrow. But the Olympic champions Germany could not make it at the scheduled 2 p.m. landing at the Chandigarh airport becasue of the foggy conditions. The plane had to fly back for safer flying weather later in the day.
The Germans also are visiting India after three decades. They will probably have two sessions of workouts tomorrow before the Punjab Government mega event gets under way.
A mega event of the Punjab Sports Department the speed at which the arrangments have been made goes to the credit of Sports Director Pargat Singh who has been given a free hand by Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal. In just one week the entire machinery worked as one to see that no stone is left unturned in making the event a success. "Yes, it is the revival of hockey", said sports director and former India Olympic hockey captain Pargat Singh.
Last minute touches were being given to the media centre to mee the requirements of sports journalists and hockey writers coming from all over the country.