New Delhi, Indian hockey legend Zafar Iqbal declared the 1st Khelo India Women's Hockey League (U-16) open at the Major Dhyanchand National Stadium here on Tuesday.
The Phase 1 of the tournament, scheduled until August 23, started earlier in the morning.
Also present during the opening ceremony were Ekta Vishnoi, Senior Director, Khelo India, Vineet Kumar, former Indian men's team hockey player, Asunta Lakra, former Indian women's team hockey player, Piyush Kumar Dubey, former coach of the Indian men's hockey team, amongst others.
"It is great to see the kind of enthusiasm our Hon'ble Prime Minister has for sports and today we have so many platforms like the Khelo India scheme, which has made this U-16 tournament possible," mentioned Iqbal, gold medalist, 1980 Moscow Olympics.
"The Commonwealth Games recently showed us that be it in Hockey or Athletics, our girls are capable of defeating any team in the world. You have the skill and stamina and you are the future," Iqbal added, addressing close to 300 players across the 16 teams participating.
"The U-16 Women's Hockey League is a good opportunity to shine and it's a great platform to learn also. And like our Hon'ble PM said to our athletes before the CWG, give your best and don't worry about win or lose."
Speaking at the inauguration of the first Khelo India Women's Hockey League (U-21) last year, Sports minister Anurag Thakur had mentioned that junior athletes train at the camp throughout the year but they have limited exposure to competition which is very crucial to perform well at international platforms and that was the idea of behind launching the women's leagues in India.
A total of 56 matches will be played in Phase 1. The Sports Authority of India has allocated a total of Rs 53.72 lakh for 3 phases of the competition, which includes Prize money of Rs 15.5 lakh.