More than 100 days since they reported at the national camp, the Indian men’s and women’s hockey players finally headed home for a month-long break, starting Friday.
The 56-odd probables had been stuck at the Sports Authority of India’s Bengaluru Centre due to the lockdown. While the men had been at the camp since March 2 following their Pro League games against Australia, Belgium and Holland in Bhubaneswar, the women had been cooped since February 16, making it a four-month long stay.
The decision was taken by Hockey India late on Wednesday evening following consultations with SAI officials, coaches and support staff and players themselves. It is understood that while most of the players preferred leaving on Thursday itself, ticketing issues and working out travel formalities took time.
The players, both men and women, started leaving in batches with the first group leaving on Friday morning and most expected to be gone by Sunday evening. They will, however, have to strictly follow quarantine rules — home or institutional — depending on their respective states.
Karnataka native S.V. Sunil, though, went home Thursday itself. Goalkeeper Suraj Karkera, who decided against travelling because of the severe pandemic situation in Mumbai, and the women’s duo of Sushila Chanu (Manipur) and Lalremsiami (Mizoram) will continue to stay in Bengaluru.
Return next month
The players have been asked to report back on July 19 which is again likely to be followed by a 14-day quarantine period.
“There wasn’t any problem at SAI, honestly, in terms of facilities or diet or anything. But the days of three or four month long camps is long gone. Most players are used to short, high-intensity camps instead and the fact that for almost two of those there was no on-ground training made it more difficult. It was more a mental and emotional thing, staying away from families,” one player en route to the airport said. The players had finally got permission to resume basic on-ground training, in small groups, from June 10.
While women’s Dutch coaches Sjoerd Marijne and Janneke Schopman too left for home early Friday morning, the men’s staff including coach Graham Reid and Chris Ciriello is uncertain and staying put at SAI for the moment.