Expat Field Hockey Club
Interviw by John Harrison
Field hockey is a sport which is very popular in other parts of the world, such as the UK, Spain, Germany, Holland, Australia, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, Malaysia, parts of Latin America and is alive and well in Russia too!
Vineet Arora, the founder and coordinator of the Moscow Expat Field Hockey team talked about the Moscow team:
How did field hockey start in Russia?
In Russia, in comparison to other parts of the world, field hockey is more popular amongst women than men. During the Soviet period, hockey was a popular sport because it was sponsored by the government. That all changed in the late 1980s. I myself used to play a lot in India before I relocated here in the early 1990s. In those days there wasn’t very much to do in Moscow; so most expats would get together to play a sport which was also a form of social networking. That is how we started, in the same way that other expat sports such as cricket started here. We didn’t have a lot of hockey kits in Moscow then, so I brought some in from India. We started with a small group of people who knew the sport and at the same time encouraged a group of local Russians, who were beginners and interested, to take part. Thus how the expat field hockey club was formed.
Do a lot of people take part?
We used to have a large attendance throughout the year because in summer we would play outdoors, and in winter indoors. In the old days, expats would turn up because over the weekend there wasn’t much to do. Over the past few years things have changed because most of the facilities that we used to play at have been converted into other sports facilities such as tennis courts, and the stadiums that we used to use in the winter have become horribly expensive and we can’t afford to pay these kinds of prices. We used to pay 3,500 an hour, now we have to pay 15,000 or 20,000 an hour to play at an indoor stadium. We have now found an alternative for winter, by playing on a smaller pitch but only playing 5 a-side or 6 a-side, which is better than nothing. People don’t mind paying 350 or 400 rubles maximum for a game of hockey, but not 1,000 rubles each. In summer we continue to play outdoors on a full field at Sokolniki.
We only have one team in Russia, so we basically play against ourselves. Foreign teams do visit sometimes and we put a team together to play them. If there is a local tournament going on, we play an exhibition match, which is usually a couple of games each summer.
What sort of hockey do you play in Moscow?
We play what is called mixed hockey and most of the people currently playing have played before. Some of the players are ex-Russian team players who want to keep in touch with the game and come and join us. I am an honorary director of the Russian Field Hockey Federation, trying to help them get sponsorships, help them organize tournaments, invite teams from abroad and other organizational help like that.
Are most of your players expats?
Yes, but now we do have a lot of Russian participation too. Let’s say that now it is about 50/50.
How can anybody who wants to play get in touch with you?
Anybody who is interested in playing hockey in Moscow can contact me (see details below). The cost is approximately 300-400 rubles per person, which covers the cost of booking the pitch. This is a non-profit venture, more for social networking, to keep in touch and play the sport and simply get some exercise. We play every Saturday afternoon.
The EXPAT FIELD HOCKEY CLUB invites women and men to play hockey every Saturday from 15:00 to 16:30. Beginners welcome. Sticks provided. For more information, contact Vineet Arora, tel. 768-7317 or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org