India

India ice hockey: National team seeks crowdfunding

Ice hockey game in India Image copyright Akshay Kumar
Image caption Ice hockey is gaining in popularity in India

India's ice hockey players have turned to crowdfunding to take part in an upcoming international tournament.

The players do not have money to travel to Kuwait for next week's International Ice Hockey Federation Challenge Cup.

The 25-member-squad hopes to raise 2 million rupees ($32,112; £21,589) for the week-long tournament.

India's cricket stars can earn millions of dollars, but when it comes to other sports, players can struggle to raise enough funds to compete.

Ice Hockey Association of India launched the campaign last week using a Twitter hashtag ##SupportIceHockey and setting up a website to gather funds.

Akshay Kumar, director of the association, told the BBC that they had collected some 600,000 rupees by Wednesday, which includes a substantial contribution from a business group based in southern India.

The players have been promised another 500,000 rupees from the leading business group Mahindra, whose owner Anand Mahindra tweeted that he had "decided to support these passionate athletes".

"Lots of people have been calling up and are interested in donating. The response has been good," Mr Kumar said.

India's ice hockey team has been playing in international tournaments since 2009.

"But it has always been a stretch. We have always paid out of our pockets to keep the team going, but it cannot be done on a sustained basis," Mr Kumar said.

"The government tells us 'win us a medal, then we will give you funds'. It's a chicken and egg situation."

Although ice hockey is relatively unknown in the largely tropical sub-continent, the sport was introduced by the British in the hill town of Simla in northern India nearly a century ago.

Image copyright Akshay kumar
Image caption There are 2,500 registered ice hockey players in India

It was later revived by the Indian army in the 1970s in the Ladakh region of Indian-administered Kashmir, and has grown in popularity ever since.

There are some 2,500 registered ice hockey players in India today, up from 300 in 2002, when the sport association was set up.

India has a number of natural surface rinks in Ladakh but only one ice rink that meets international standards, in the city of Dehradun.

"But the Dehradun rink has been shut since 2012 because of lack of commitment," Mr Kumar said.

The players mainly practice in four smaller rinks in the cities of Mumbai, Gurgaon, Cochin and Bangalore.

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