While there have been a few New Zealand cricketers of Indian origin, including the current Black Cap Tarun Nathula, it’s not an easy ride in the sporting field for minorities, suggests a historian in a new book.
The courage of Kiwi Indian pioneers in forming sporting clubs against the odds is captured in the book “Sporting Foundations of New Zealand Indians” by historian Dr Geoff Watson.
The book’s launch is timely as Auckland is named the number two sports city in the world.
Geoff, a senior lecturer in history at Massey’s School of Humanities, says he was struck by the remarkable courage the pioneers showed in founding these clubs in the 1930s, a time when there were only 1200 Indians in New Zealand.
“The founders of these clubs travelled half-way around the world and were trying to make their way in a new country which is difficult enough, but many of the Indian immigrants had little, if any, English.
“Moreover, racist sentiment was openly expressed in New Zealand during this time, even government publications such as the 1921 Census warning ‘the coalescence of the white and the so-called coloured races is not conducive to improvement in racial types’,” Geoff says.
However, some local sport icons helped Indian talent. Eddie McLeod, then captain of the New Zealand Hockey team, was the first coach of Wellington Indian Sports Club.
“Given this background, and with many of the young Indian men working long hours for low pay, it would have been very easy to have put sport in the ‘too hard’ basket. But they pressed ahead and formed clubs, despite the opposition of some of their elders,” Geoff says.
The oldest of the clubs, Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland, were founded in the 1930s and inspired, in part, by Indian hockey teams, which toured New Zealand in 1926, 1935 and 1938.
From the first clubs and inter-club games the national association was founded in 1962. It now oversees a cricket tournament, golf tournament, an Under-23 men’s and women’s hockey tournament and Queen’s Birthday tournament, which attracts approximately 25 teams in three codes: hockey, netball and soccer.
Many Indians who played in these tournaments have since gone on to achieve representative honours at provincial and national level.
Geoff is impressed that all of this has been achieved on a voluntary basis, which is a “remarkable achievement at a time when many sports operate on a professional basis”.
The book is published by the New Zealand Indian Sports Association which celebrated its 50th jubilee this year.
While the Rugby World Cup 2011 may been the biggest casualty of the Christchurch earthquake for canterbrians, all is not lost.
Encouraged by Prince William’s visit to the earthquake-affected Canterbury, the promoters of International Ice Hockey USA vs Canada have decided to go ahead with the event.
“I do not care if I have to fly them in one hour before the game and out again after, If Prince William feels safe then so should they,” says event promoter Craig Douglas. “Over 150 events between 22 February 2011 (the day of the quake) and Christmas have been pulled out of Christchurch City Council venues and parks.”
The 28-year old second-in-line to the British throne followed his Christchurch visit by meeting the families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River mine disaster, before crossing the Tasman to see flood-devastated areas of Victoria and Queensland in Australia.
The Prince’s visit provided the much-needed confidence to the promoters of the International Ice Hockey’s game two which is set for Christchurch’s CBS Arena on 30 July.
Christchurch is New Zealand’s second largest city and the largest in the South Island. Regarded as the most English of cities, Christchurch is situated on the east coast of the South Island.
The venue is not affected by the earthquake and the promoters see no reason for Christchurch residents to miss out on the action sport event of the year.
It’s not about making money, says Douglas.
“It’s about giving the people of Christchurch our support and giving the city and residents back some energy and excitement.
“It’s about giving them something to look forward to.”
The promoters expect the event to provide a NZ$2 million boost to the economy, which may not be much internationally; however for a small economy that was already suffering from recession, this could be a welcome relief for not just Christchurch, but for New Zealand.
Bringing the international series to Christchurch is not without its problems; the North American tour directors are cautious about letting their NZ$100 million product come to a broken city.
“I do not care if I have to fly them in one hour before the game and out again after, If Prince William feels safe then so should they,” Douglas says.
Kerry Goulet, a tour commentator says that Ice Hockey is one of the hardest and fastest sports on earth and that he believes that Cantabrians are a tough bunch and will enjoy that action.
International Ice Hockey promoters are going the extra mile to make this a “real” American Ice Hockey experience with extreme sound and lighting, big screen TVs, action replays and live American announcers.
With the ice floor fresh off the boat from the Netherlands as the first ever fully portable NHL spec ice floor in Australasia, it will be a spectacular display of Ice Hockey entertainment.
In the meantime, the prince has returned to the UK in time for his wedding to Kate Middleton on 29 April.