A German Coach Crossing Hurdles to Take Hockey to Rural India
German hockey enthusiast Andrea Thumshirn faces myriad hurdles in her quest to train Indian rural children in the sport.
A hockey turf has been cut into pieces and is being used as doormats and carpets in a Rajasthan village. The turf was brought to village Jatwara in Dausa district of the state from Germany in 2013, when Andrea Thumshirn, a primary league hockey player from the European country, began teaching the sport to children in the village. In a country with hockey as its national game and where sports infrastructure has always been an issue, the use of AstroTurf as door mats has invited national attention.
Thumshirn left Rajasthan recently after a three-year stint in the area when she discovered that she was being cheated by the locals, the Hindustan Times reported. The 42-year-old hockey trainer told the publication that she had earlier suffered the same experience in another village in the state.
Hockey Village India in Rajasthan
The turf in Jatwara was the third one in Rajasthan, with Jaipur and Ajmer being the two places with hockey turfs in the state, the report added.
Thumshirn’s foray into training village children in hockey began when she visited Garh Himmat Singh village in 2010 with some German tourists while traveling from Jaipur to Agra. She started Hockey Village India, a non-profit organisation to introduce the sport to children in the rural area. In 2014, she moved to Jatwara after finding out that her local partner was using the funds meant for the children.
In Jatwara too, her plans did not fructify since the locals opposed her plans to lay out the turf, she told HT. “They gave a 14-page objection letter too. One of the reasons was that their annual fair was held in the school ground,” said Thumshirn.
The turf was then shifted to the house of the Sharma family, who own the school where its pieces are now used as mats. Varsha Sharma, the wife of the school owner, told the publication that the pieces came as samples, a claim that Thumshirn denies, saying there were no samples as the turf was a second-hand one that she got from Germany. “It lay behind their house for a long time. They must have cut the pieces from there,” HT quoted her as saying.
Accusations against Thumshirn
Thumshirn, who enrolled more than 100 boys and girls at the two schools in the Rajasthan villages, was also accused of imposing her Western culture on the local population. She was accused of trying to convert children to Christianity, and plotting to grab land in the village, Economic Times had reported in 2015.
“I tried to be not angry,” she said talking to Scroll. “I don’t know if people really understand what they did was wrong. It was a clash of cultures that could not be any bigger,” added Thumshirn, who has now moved to Theralu in Coorg, Karnataka.