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Inspiring interaction

Charles Cornelius enacted the actions of a player in different positions with a kind of animation that kept the audience glued to their seats.



Motivating students

THE PACKED auditorium of the Bishop Heber College was replete with eager eyes and curious minds the other day.

Their anticipation was understandable as they were soon to have a tete-a-tete with a veteran of a series of World Cup Hockey tournaments and Olympics. Well. As he opened up his mind, the students were bowled over by his simplicity.

Charles Cornelius, the star goalkeeper in innumerable international tournaments, was there before them in flesh and blood. Thanks to the College's Rotaract Club and the Department of Physical Education, which organised the interaction programme.

His down to earth composure, in fact, prompted students, who had occupied every inch of the space available in the spacious auditorium, to strike an instant chord with him with a child-like inquisitiveness. He responded with equivocal pose, enacting the actions of a player in different positions with a kind of animation that kept the audience glued to his actions.

The first shot coming from a student in the session was that of hitting a bull's eye. What was basically wrong with the Indian hockey? Charles reply was a story of lament. Of the declining standards of the game set to Western conditions, robbing it of its originality over the past few decades. The days of wooden sticks, leather balls and grass grounds are gone, he said with a sigh of sorrow. These are the days of carbon sticks, seamless golf balls passing off as hockey, and astro turf, that favours European countries with cold climate, virtually finishing Asian style of hockey.

A small country such as Holland has over 200 astro turf grounds where as India which ruled the roost once has less than 20 grounds. Where is the level-playing field? Then why India and Pakistan did not oppose the introduction of astro turf play fields? Pat came the reply that the International Hockey Federation is packed with Europeans and that the Asians could do very little. Astro turf, for the Europeans, will benefit all, but India and Pakistan, which are still the best teams in the world, said Mr. Charles.

What made Charles a little emotional was a query about his memorable match and day. Inadvertently, his memorable match was the one played between the two Asian hockey giants in the semi-finals of the 1973 Amsterdam World Cup.

Only on the previous day, the star Pakistani player and penalty corner specialist, Tanveer Dhar, had threatened through a press interview that India would be crushed. Even as the rest of the Indian players got unnerved by the statement, Charles not only maintained the cool, but motivated the rest of his team mates individually as well as collectively.

Putting their acts together, the team rose up to the occasion. Tanveer Dhar had all the reasons to get exasperated at the end of the match. For, he could not capitalise even in one of the eight opportunities he got in penalty corners. Charles, on his part, was at his best, saving six of the eight shots. The rest two hit the goal post. And the next day, the newspaper headlines screamed, `Charles saved India'.

No sooner did he say this than the room reverberated with claps, and Charles turned a little bit emotional.

A gold medal was a rightful claim of India in the game in those days. For, a bronze medal would mean brickbats. Recalls Charles: "We had to virtually escape from the Delhi airport, where an irate mob armed with footwear were waiting for the arrival of the Indian hockey team after the 1972 Munich Olympics, apparently upset over India getting a bronze and not a gold. Today the scene is different, where a bronze medal at Athens would have fetched red carpet welcome for the Indian team".

He also articulated that the importance of other games and sports have been eclipsed by cricket. Not that he disliked cricket. In fact, he was an active cricketer himself during his student days.

Charles, on learning that many university and college hockey players were present among the audience, demonstrated some of the goal saving techniques, much to their delight. "Why people in the nook and corner of the country are cricket crazy, despite the fact that hockey is our national game?" Charles shot a question towards the audience. There was silence for a while. But none had the answer.

R. KRISHNAMOORTHY

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