Book pays tribute to Indian sportsmen

The fortitude, hope and aspirations of early Indian settlers to achieve in various sporting activities have been chronicled in a new book.

Written by Dr Geoff Watson, Senior Lecturer in History at the Massey University School of Humanities, the book, titled, ‘Sporting Foundations of New Zealand Indians,’ lauds the courage of Indian pioneers in forming sports clubs against the prevalent challenges and problems.

The publication coincided with the golden jubilee of the New Zealand Indian Sports Association and its members comprising eight clubs.

According to Dr Watson, the Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland Clubs were established in the 1930s and inspired, in part, by Indian hockey teams, which toured New Zealand in 1926, 1935 and 1938.

He said that he was amazed by the “remarkable courage” of the pioneers in establishing clubs at 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 was difficult, but many of the Indian immigrants knew little English.

“Moreover, racist sentiment was openly expressed in New Zealand during this time,” he said.

Racial overtones

Dr Watson quoted a 1921 Census warning, “the coalescence of the white and the so-called coloured races is not conducive to improvement in racial types.”

He said that notwithstanding racial overtones, some clubs received assistance from local sports organisations and that 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,” Dr Watson said.

According to the book, the New Zealand Indian Sports Association was born (1962) out of the first clubs and inter-club games.

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, he said.

Many Indians who played in these tournaments have achieved representative honours at provincial and national levels.

Photo :

Dr Geoff Watson (Picture courtesy: Massey News)

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