Domestic Hockey Spotlight
East Bengal men’s hockey team are in seventh heaven after winning the Kolkata Premier Hockey League in Kolkata. The triumph assumes special significance because East Bengal won the Kolkata Premier Hockey League after a lenghty gap of 33 years – the last time they had won the 1989 edition when they put it across Eastern Railway 2-1 in the final. East Bengal hasn’t been regularly featuring in the Kolkata Premier Hockey League – they marked a return to the league last year after a hiatus of 21 years.
The Kolkata Premier Hockey League has a rich legacy and is played on grass every year – it has been conducted by Bengal Hockey Association (now Hockey Bengal) for 117 years now. The Jagraj Singh-coached East Bengal side put up an impressive performance in the Super Six of the Kolkata Premier Hockey League that is played on grass on a round-robin format. East Bengal alongside Punjab Sports Club, CESC Sports Club, Calcutta Port Trust, FCI, and Eastern Railway qualified for the Super Six stage from among fourteen teams that took part in the league.
East Bengal kickstarted their campaign with a 2-1 victory over CESC 2-1 – they subsequently humbled Eastern Railway 3-1 and drubbed Calcutta Port Trust 5-0. The red-and-gold brigade eked out a hard-fought 1-0 win over FCI and wrapped up their engagements with an emphatic 5-0 win over Punjab Sports Club. “It’s a good feeling to win the Kolkata Premier Hockey League after 33 years. This will be a good confidence-booster for the East Bengal side,” says East Bengal coach Jagraj Singh in a chat with Hockey Passion from Kolkata.
Jagraj, who represented Bengal as a fullback betwen 1980 and 1990, says the standard of hockey in the Kolkata Premier Hockey League was of the highest order. “The league is very competitive and most of the teams are evenly balanced. Of course, it is played on grass but hockey standard is as good as you get to see. Not many hockey leagues are happening across the country and the Kolkata Premier Hockey League is the only league that is conducted across third division, second division, first division, and premier division,” he makes his point.
Jagraj, who had earlier coached Punjab Sports Club to five Kolkata League wins, says East Bengal reaped the benefits from the presence of several former internationals – goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya, Pardeep Mor, Harjeet Singh, Yuvraj Walmiki and Junior World-Cupper Maninder Singh. “All these ex-internationals did a good job for East Bengal. Maninder Singh, who is in the senior India camp, was outstanding for us scoring 9 goals. Yuvraj Walmiki was in good form, scoring 7 goals. Harjeet, Pardeep and Vijay also served the team well,” says the former Bengal defender, who moved to the US in the early nineties and now runs a chain of retail outlets in the US.