What is common between Spain and India apart from love for food?
Yes, you guessed it right, love for hockey.
Out of the 25 teams who have made appearances in the Hockey World Cup to date, Spain and India are among the 4 teams who have participated in all the years.
The hockey connection between Spain and India doesn’t end there, one just needs to visit Anantapur, a city more than 350 km from Hyderabad to understand the deep hockey connections between the two countries.
It all started in 2005 when Spain came to India to participate in the Champions Trophy. Andreu Enrich, then 21, traveled to Anantapur to meet the kid who he was sponsoring through an NGO, Rural Development Trust along with Santi Freixa, FIH’s Talent Of The Year 2004.
The visit prompted Andreu and Santi to go for something bigger, something better.
Thus, Sticks For India was born.Stick for India is a hockey project of Rural Development Trust . (Photo Credits: A Hockey World/Pablo Mendoza)
What started off in 2006 as occasional hockey camp to introduce underprivileged children to hockey today has become a full-fledged hockey program with 31 center’s having more than 800 hockey players (boys and girls).
Today Anantapur Hockey Academy runs, three programs - Grassroots for kids who are just introduced to hockey, Development which has more than 90 players under them and the full-fledged hockey academy, established in 2007 having more than 50 players who are provided the necessary support for development in hockey along with educational support free of cost.Andreu Enrich is one of the most talented Spanish players in the past 20 years. (Photo Credits: A Hockey World/Pablo Mendoza)
On his first visit to Anantapur, Andreu was shocked to see the state of people over there and had two options in front of him - either continue to play hockey for Spain or do something for the rural kids of Anantapur. His biggest joy was to see the kids whom he started working with during early days representing state and district hockey tournaments and ending up with good jobs in the future.Also Read: From The Grassroots: A series by The Bridge
The success of the project started by two Spaniards are giving great dividends and Saikiran - a player in his early 20s is the prime example of it.
After learning hockey nuances from the program Stick for India, Sasikiran went on to represent the Anantapur Sports Academy team and even captained the side. His performance in the Bengaluru Hockey League where he was adjudged as the best players opened a path for him to represent in Andhra Pradesh hockey team. Saikiran, due to education imparted by the program secured a job in Army and now plays for Army hockey team.
Andreu Enrich's wish is to see an international hockey player coming out of Anantapur Hockey Academy, and the way things are going, it is not going to be too long before we see one Indian color.