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Successful boys' hockey tour to India for Canford

Published Monday 7th of January 2013 09:37:51 AM

From 11th-22nd December, twenty seven boys and three staff travelled to India for a hockey tour. During the visit to Delhi, Agra and Jaipur they played five competitive matches and also had the opportunity to experience some of the culture of the country.

The first two matches were against The Motilal Academy in New Delhi. This specialist sports academy was set up by the government for boys and girls with particular talent and competition for places is intense. A thrilling first match led to a 7-5 Canford victory, with strong defending by the home side. In the second match, Canford began well with a hat-trick in the first 11 minutes leading to a 3-2 win. After the matches the Director of the Academy praised the skills and ability of the visiting team.

A match on grass in Jaipur was a very different experience. Canford managed a 3-3 draw but it was interesting to see the different skills required for this surface.

At the Delhi National Hockey complex, built for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the Canford squad played a team from the National Academy's junior U16 squad overseen by a former national coach who has just been appointed to coach the Delhi team in the HIL (Hockey India League). Although young the academy side was skilful and a number of stronger, faster, older boys were also substituted during the course of the match. Canford were reasonably comfortably 2-0 up at half time but ended the match in a 3-3 draw following some excellent ball skills by the opposition.

The final two matches were stern tests of fitness, skills and character against the National Academy senior team and a Punjab National Bank-sponsored squad. A 3-1 win in the first was a well deserved and hard fought victory. The Punjab National Bank (PNB) Academy invites talented players from poor backgrounds from all over India to compete for a place. There are over 400 applicants for just 10 places each year. Players enter the academy at thirteen and train three hours a day (before more conventional academic schooling) directed by excellent coaches. At the end of their time at the academy they are given jobs by the bank. What this is essentially leading to is that the team was quite excellent and their coach had blended organisation and tactical awareness to a very high level of individual skill employed at a frightening speed! As this was Canford's second match of the day the legs were going to become heavy at some time and the team hit 'the wall' after half time when the score was a creditable 1 0 to PNB. The second half was an outstanding display of Indian hockey at its very best. As the Canford team tired the Indian pressure became irrepressible and four second half goals left the score 5-0 to our hosts.

Between matches, the group was able to visit some of the historic sites in the region. The Agra Fort, the Taj Mahal, the Deserted city of Fatehpur and the Amber Fort, north of the 'Pink City' of Jaipur, were among the highlights.

Canford's coaches were impressed by the effort and discipline shown by the squad during their training sessions and matches on the tour. When pre-season starts in January we should see a strong squad of players who have shown real reserves of determination and increased maturity from this unique hockey experience.

Reporting by Harry Griffiths and Rick Raumann
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