HIL's Inaugural Year Attracts Int'l Stars, Lucrative Sponsors, Big Payouts For Players
India's field hockey players "are set for a financial windfall when they take part in a new tournament" that begins Monday and is inspired by cricket's popular Twenty20 leagues, according to the AFP. The Hockey India League, sanctioned by the sport's world governing body, will feature "top stars from around the world turn out for five city-based franchises over the next four weeks" until Feb. 10. The 34-match league "offers players lucrative fees and promises to raise field hockey's profile back to its old heights in India, before a string of poor results saw its fan base fade." India, which won the last of its eight Olympic field hockey Gold Medals at the Moscow Games in '80, failed to qualify for the Beijing Games in '08 and then finished last in London. Poor performance, however, "did not prevent companies from splurging on hiring players" at the HIL's auction in New Delhi last month. Indian captain Sardar Singh, for example, was picked up by the Delhi Wave Riders franchise, owned by a property developer, for $78,000 per tournament over the next three years. Additionally, Moritz Fürste, the Int'l Hockey Federation player of the year for '12 after helping Germany win two successive Olympic Golds in Beijing and London, went to the Ranchi Rhinos for $75,000. Dutch veteran Teun de Nooijer, who was sold to the Uttar Pradesh Wizards for $66,000, said: "This league is not only important for India but will be a game changer in the sport around the world. Field hockey needed such a tournament to boost its profile" (AFP, 1/13).