Where: Chandigarh, India

February 10, 2009 : The Punjab Gold Cup, a four nation hockey tournament, was organized by the state government of Punjab in Chandigarh. Hosts India, captained by Sandeep Singh, got a chance to test their skills against New Zealand, European champions Holland, and world-cum-Olympic champions Germany. The final match went to Holland, who defeated the home team 2-1. This didn’t dampen the spectators’ enthusiasm, though.

The myth that only cricket can pull crowds in India was busted. The hockey arena in Chandigarh’s Sector 42 drew over 15,000 people each day, and 25,000 spectators on the final night, when India took on Holland. Thousands of people came into Chandigarh from cities like Amritsar and Jalandhar to watch the matches. There is talk of a similar four-nation hockey tournament for women coming up in Chandigarh in the future.

The tournament, and the interest it generated, could be a shot in the arm for hockey, India’s national game. Eight times Olympic champions, India failed to qualify for Beijing in 2008. The team is looking ahead to the next challenge that is the Asia Cup in Dubai in May.