A German's dream to set up hockey academy

A German's dream to set up hockey academy

it’s play time Children enjoy a game of hockey with Andrea. DH photo

She now dreams of opening a hockey academy in the village. Recently, she, along with a few friends from Germany, undertook an autorickshaw rally from Jaipur to Chennai to mobilise funds for her pet hockey village project.

She said: “I first came to India in 1998 and fell in love with the country and its people. I came back again and again and started my own business – a travel agency for individual trips to Asia.” Her Indian partner Dilip, a Rajasthani, took her one day to a village in the eastern part of Rajasthan – half way between Agra and Jaipur, called Garh Himmat Singh.

It is his ancestral village. His mother grew up there and his cousins still live in the village. Their ancestors were the Mahara­dschas (care takers of the village during the rule of Maharajas) and they still live in a part of the huge fort, most part of it is in ruins. She was very much impressed with the rustic beauty of the village and also overwhelmed by the great hospitality of the people.

“We took a walk through the village and visited the schools. I was moved by the condition of the schools.” The children were sitting on the stone floor, trying to understand what the teacher was saying.” Conditions were really very poor and two teachers had to take care of four classes at the same time – no wonder they are not motivated. English lessons are on the time-table but as the teachers did not speak English nobody expects them to teach the children.

She said: “I saw loads of stored English books in the principal’s room – untouched… My heart was already occupied with this village and I decided to help in any way,” she recalled.

Talking about her hockey conn­ection, she says, “I was a passionate hockey player and has been playing since I was six years old. When I was 14, I started coaching the girls’ teams in our hockey club. Then I moved to Berlin and started my own career. I was playing first league in Germany but had to stop then due to health problems.”

Since hockey is the Indian nati­onal sport, she thought about building a ground. During one of her visits in the village, she shared the idea with Chandu (Dilip’s cousin) and he immediately offered the ground in front of the fort. Then they removed the hillock on the one side to make the ground bigger and flat, ordered a roller and started the project, Andrea said.

Since then a stream of hockey veterans from India and abroad have visited this village. In 2009, she came with a mixed hockey team from Germany and they stopped over for lunch in the vill­age. They donated some money and they bought a carpet for the girls’ school, some sweaters for the cold winters and school equipment and uniforms for those who could not afford. That was the beginning, she pointed out.

After the Hockey World Cup in 2010, some parents of German national players were brought to the village and they fell in love with the work in the village. It was foll­owed by the veterans’ hockey team from Vienna in March 2010. She herself spent a month in the villa­ge in July 2010 to get everything running. “We finalised the hockey ground, found a sponsor for sticks, bought some shirts and started the hockey practice — alternate days for boys and girls —and the feedback was amazing. Every day a hundred children were fighting for the hockey sticks,” she claimed.

However, she believed that without quality education, no change is possible. So, before the children go to the ground they were taught English in a converted temple. “This is another effort we are taking hand in hand with the hockey classes as I believe only if they speak English, they can make their way out of the village,” Andrea stressed. Her hockey team has already played matches with the team of Delhi Public school in Jaipur.

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