October 14 will remain a special Sunday for the 100-odd kids of the Jude Felix Hockey Academy.
Unlike the usual Sundays which involves training, a game of hockey and breakfast at their home-cum-school -- St Mary’s Orphanage -- the kids were in for a treat when a clutch of former State hockey players and some internationals chose to light up a gloomy morning.
Former India captain Arjun Halappa, VS Vinaya and current India forward SV Sunil and a few other former State players were part of the ‘Rest of Karnataka’ squad, challenging the JFHA academy kids in a 20-minute exhibition match.
“I am extremely happy to be associated with this noble cause,” said Halappa as kids scrambled to get his autograph. “It is such a delight to see the enthusiasm in the kids when they play hockey and I hope some of them get to play for the country some time.”
“This is my first time here and I am looking forward to more such events,” said Sunil, who was impressed by the talent of the kids. “What Jude has done with these kids is spectacular.”
Thrilled with the response, especially from Halappa, Sunil and former India goal-keeper Ashish Ballal who made it in short notice, former India captain Felix said the growth of the academy has vindicated his decision to start it. “Over the last four years, we’ve really made strong improvements. In terms of numbers, we’ve got nearly 100 kids now training almost everyday.
“Apart from that, there is talent here too. Joshua Arun Kumar and Arvind were inducted into the Sports Authority of India (SAI) earlier this year and Rajendra made the cut for the Karnataka sub-junior team. The JFHA wards representing Maria Niketan school clinched the U-16 District and Taluk-level tournaments while the U-14 team emerged victorious in the prestigious Allan MacBride inter-school tournament. That shows the kids here are very serious and we are here not just for charity but to take the kids to the next level.”
Meanwhile, the JFHA inter-school tournament will be played at the KSHA stadium from Nov 7-10. For the second year in row, the event will be played under floodlights and eight teams are expected to participate.