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Namdhari Hockey


Namdharis in the hockey arena

DISTINGUISHED by their spotless white turbans and playing uniform, the Namdhari Vidyak Jatha hockey team are leading participants in national and International Hockey Tournaments. It is one of the finest hockey teams in India.

Namdharis, known for their unprecedented contribution in the freedom struggle, are also set to be the first private organization in the country to have their own Astro-Turf — synthetic playfield — at Bhaini Sahib, near Ludhiana, the sect’s headquarters.

The turf, imported from the Netherlands, will be available for training and holding competitions by the end of the next month. The work on laying the base has started. "The surface has already arrived," says Thakur Ude Singh, who looks after the hockey team of the sect.

Namdharis have made headlines since early 80s when they fielded their hockey team for the first time in various national level tournaments. Neat and unique turnout with players supporting white turbans even on the playfield were reasons enough to attract worldwide attention.

Besides their turnout, they had been giving an excellent account of themselves on playfield, toppling some of the top teams in major tournaments. Not only that, some of their players made it to the national team. Didar Singh, the team coach donned national colours in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

His namesake, Didar Singh Jr, was a member of the Asia Cup team. And another promising youngster, Harpal Singh, a deep defender, was a member of Indian team in the inaugural Afro-Asian Games at Hyderabad.

Other outstanding Namdhari players are Gurnam Singh "Gama", Gurcharan Singh, Ajmer Singh and Gurvinder Singh. Ajmer and Gurvinder represented India in the last Asian Schools Hockey Tournament in Bangladesh while Gurcharan played for the country in the four-nation tournament India won in Egypt early this year.

Besides them, India’s former center-half Hardeep Singh Grewal and junior international star Daljit Singh also played for the Namdharis for a number of years. They, in fact, accompanied Namdhari hockey team on tours to Europe in late 80s and early 90s.

Going by the sect’s patronage to the game, the Indian Hockey Federation has granted them direct affiliation, enabling it to send its team for participation in the national championships.

First-ever Astro-turf in rural area
Prabhjot SinghTribune News Service

Bhaini Sahib, October 9

India’s first-ever Astro-turf in a rural area — Bhaini Sahib, near Ludhiana — and in the private sector has put the Namdharis in line for a unique distinction.
Gifted by a Holland company, the Namdharis have spent Rs 42 lakh on the import, transportation and installation of the latest version of the polymer-based surface. Of this, Rs 10 lakh came as a special grant from the Punjab Government.

The Bhaini Sahib Astro-turf, which will be formally inaugurated on October 14 by the Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, will thus be the fifth such field in Punjab after Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala. Ludhiana can now boast of two Astroturfs — other one is at Punjab Agricultural University.

Namdharis association with hockey dates back to 1978 when they started their team with former international Baldev Singh (of Nigeria) as their coach. Two years later, this team with its unique white sports gear — tapering turbans and knee-long “kachheras” (traditional Sikh costume) — was in headlines for winning the prestigious Jawahar Lal Nehru Hockey Tournament for juniors in New Delhi.

Known for their robust tactics and superb fighting qualities, it soon made a place for itself as one of top teams in the country, producing in the process some players for the national team. Namdhais could topple any top team any day and won several tournaments.

Hardeep Singh Grewal, Didar Singh Sr, Didar Singh Jr, Gurcharan Singh, Gurmukh Singh Gama and Harpal Singh are some of the top national players the sect has produced. Besides Baldev Singh (Nigeria), Baldev Singh (Shahbad Markanda) and Hardeep Singh Grewal have been responsible for coaching and training of their subsequent teams.
In fact, the head of the Namdhari sect, Satguru Jagjit Singh, has been a sportsman himself. Inspite of his old age, he is a regular badminton player. In his younger days, he dabbled in hockey. In fact, the love for this unofficial national sport has been in the blood of Namdhari sect. Thakur Udey Singh, a nephew of the Satguru, had been a hockey player himself. He was a contemporary of Surjit Singh, one of greatest deep defenders Punjab has produced in post-independence era.

“We plan to introduce Punjab state hockey league featuring top teams of the region,” says Thakur Udey Singh revealing that Bangalore-based Namdhari Seeds, of which he is the Managing Director, would be its sponsor.
Mr Rashpal Singh, who looks after the Namdhari Hockey Academy, says that a special tubewell has been commissioned for watering the synthetic surface. He says that for optimum utilisation of the surface, the academy had chalked out a complete programme. The playfield would be made available to other teams for training and practice games also.

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