Ex-players, new infra help revive nation’s fortune
Indian hockey has passed through crests and troughs over the years. With 11 Olympic medals (8 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze) in its kitty, it was the golden age for the Indian hockey. But like all good things come to end soon, the Indian hockey suddenly slummed to its lowest ebb. It all started after the glory of the Moscow games the Indian hockey sank to abyssal depth.
The resurgence was an uphill task as game has undergone sea change since the golden days of the Indian hockey. The power-packed hockey became the order of day replacing the artistry juggernauts of the Indians. The fast paced playing artificial surface Astroturf made things challengingly strenuous for the Indians.
However, there was ray of hope at the end of dark tunnel. The hockey-loving Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha came forward in a big way to bring about renaissance of the Indian hockey.
The concerted efforts of the Odisha govt. has paid rich dividends with state emerging as a force to reckon with in the panorama of the Indian hockey. Some of the shining stars of the Indian hockey – Dilip Tirkey, Ignace Tirkey, Lazarus Barla and Sunita Lakra are a playing pivotal role in scouting, nurturing and nursing the hockey talent in the state.
It is indeed heartening to learn that the vice captains of both the men’s and women’s national hockey teams belong to Odisha. Over the years, the state had produced hockey stalwarts. The dynamic Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his team is trying to ramp up the facilities. Consequently, the state has earmarked Rs 190 crore to build 17 Astroturf pitches in 17 blocks of Sundargarh district. It will make the district nerve centre of the game in Odisha.
The availability of synthetic surface will go a long way in planning their style of playing to suit requirements of Astroturf. Synthetic playing surface is must for competition at international level. The state govt. has given priority to providing Astroturf to budding players to tune their game to the conditions of the artificial surface on which all international tournaments are being played.
Speaking about the holistic approach to develop hockey in Odisha, Tusharkanti Behera, state Sports Minister said., “Under the guidance of CM Naveen Patnaik ji the State Government is trying to promote hockey at grass root level. The state sports academy in Sundargarh identifies talent in the age group of eight/ten years through school competitions and on the recommendations of the Physical Education teachers. After selection, the talented players are sent to sports hostels, where they receive coaching and education, besides honing in their hockey skills and developing their physical and mental faculties. From here, they graduate to high performance centres to give their skills a professional touch and exposure to professional games. The hosting of major tournaments in the past five years – including the World Cup in 2018, the Champion’s Trophy in 2014 and the Hockey World League Final in 2017 proved a blessing in disguise. It was aimed at providing exposure and opportunity to play with/ against international players to chisel their skills of the game.”
The existence of 16 sports hostels across 15 districts, the sports academy at Sundargarh and high-performance centres for various sports other than hockey to train budding players is blessing in disguise. The sports academy is home to 1,250 potential players. It is from this pool, players are selected to play at the inter-state, national and international level tournaments.
To augment the facilities, the state govt. has opened ten new high performance centres to cater to the development of the technical skills of the players. The other major step to promote and project hockey at state, national and international level has been staging of the three major international tourneys./
The State Government has roped in Tata Trust and Tata Steel – the Naval Tata Hockey Academy in Bhubaneswar to promote hockey. The State Government has tied up with Reliance Foundation for athletics, the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Foundation and Dalmia Cements for badminton and JSW for swimming and football. It is also spending Rs. 110 crore to build another world class sports stadium at Rourkela for the 2023 Men’s Hockey World Cup. The State Government has given recognition to hockey and taken cognizance of contribution of the players of the state. Dilip Tirkey, ex-Indian hockey captain is enjoying the cosy comforts of the portals of Rajya Sabha. At home, Tirkey is Chairman, Odisha Tourism Development Corporation.