IN THE DEEP END
Hockey may be India’s national sport, but Pune-based diving enthusiasts Kshitij Mittal and Ankit Saboo plan to push players into the deep end with the introduction of ‘octopush’, or underwater hockey. At Mumbai’s firstever Underwater Festival (on May 6-7), the 28-year-olds are attempting to draw attention to the sport that is played in at least 28 countries.
Mittal was introduced to octopush in 2007, as a student at the University of York in the UK. Back home in Pune, he has been playing for the past two years with a group of swimmers he introduced the sport to. With encouragement from the France-based World Underwater Federation (CMAS), Mittal now aims to take octopush to the national level and eventually have an Indian team represent the country at championships.
The game involves swimmers
(kitted in a mask, fins and a snorkel) battling with one-foot hockey sticks to get a two-kilo puck sitting at the bottom of the pool into the opposite team’s goal. The challenge is that the five players on each team synchronise their diving. “When you pass the puck to a teammate, [they] have to be underwater the instant you come up for air,” explains Saboo.
Saboo and Mittal organised their first-ever Underwater Festival in Pune last year, through which they introduced 700-800 swimmers to octopush. The Mumbai leg is in May, followed by events in Delhi and Bengaluru. By 2018, they hope to have octopush teams across the four cities so they can host a national tournament. “CMAS has recognised our firm Finkick Adventures as a governing body, but to play at an international level, we need to host national tournaments and find the best players,” says Mittal.
DIVERS BATTLE WITH ONE-FOOT HOCKEY STICKS, TRYING TO GET A TWO-KILO PUCK INTO THE OTHER TEAM’S GOAL