Odisha is the new hub for hockey in India, says former India Hockey Captain Dilip Tirkey
In the last few years, Odisha has hosted the Hockey Champions Trophy 2014, Hockey World League 2017, Men’s Hockey World Cup 2018 and Men's Junior Hockey World Cup 2021
According to former India Hockey Captain Dilip Tirkey, there is more craze for hockey in Odisha than in any other part of the country and the successful hosting of several big-ticket hockey tournaments in the last few years by the state which saw the crowd in full attendance is a testimony to this.
In the last few years, Odisha has hosted the Hockey Champions Trophy 2014, Hockey World League 2017, Men’s Hockey World Cup 2018 and Men's Junior Hockey World Cup 2021, among others.
“During 2018 Men’s Hockey World Cup, there was a mad rush for tickets. People used to stand in long queues to get hold of tickets. Even for non-India matches, the stadium was full packed. This is unprecedented. You won’t see such a craze and passion for the game anywhere in India, not even in Punjab. Odisha is the new hub for hockey in India,” says the three-time Olympian and Asian Games gold medalist.
“Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic the on-going Men’s Junior Hockey World Cup is being held without any spectators. I know how much the people of Odisha must have been missing to enter the stadium and watch the matches. But, the health of spectators is more important,” feels the former Rajya Sabha member.
Tirkey, a well-known defender of his times, who has represented the country in 412 games, has been shouldered the responsibility to lift the standard of Odisha hockey to produce the next generation of star players. The hockey icon has been given the dual responsibility of Odisha Hockey Promotion Council and chairman of the ad-hoc committee for hockey in Odisha.
“The primary focus will be to develop grass-root level hockey. Bhubaneswar already has 3 astro-turfs. 17 astro-turfs are being laid in Sundergarh district. The academy in Bhubaneswar will aim at providing better facilities and training to players at the grassroots level. Laying of more astro-turfs will increase the infrastructure at the grass-root level in the state. More kids will get a chance to play on astro-turf at a young age, so quality of players will definitely increase, “ says the Padmashree and Arjuna Awardee.
“When I started my career in 1992, there were no astro- turfs in Odisha. We used to go to Kolkata to play and practice on astro-turf. And after practicing, we used to head to Delhi for tournaments. Things have changed a lot now. Thanks to our Chief Minster Naveen Patnaik, kids can now play on astro-turf in Odisha itself,” says the three-time Olympian.
The Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre (ONTHHPC), which provides advanced training with latest facilities, has 30 girls and 31 boys as trainees. The trainees get quality residential facilities opposite their training field at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. The hostel has a study room and recreation facilities like table tennis and other board games along with TV and access to computers.
The Abhinav Bindra Target Performance Centre (ABTP) is an integral part of the ONTHHPC programme which caters to physical fitness tracking, recovery management and rehabilitation process. A top-class gymnasium, international-standard swimming pool, enrolment of players in different schools, steps for holistic development of the trainees, support of a sports science team are among the facilities offered to the trainees.
The new 20,000-capacity international hockey stadium being built at Rourkela in Sundergarh district for the 2023 World Cup could serve as another hub for the sport in the state. The Sundergarh region is the main epicenter for hockey in Odisha having produced several Olympians from the state including Dilip Tirkey himself.
“With a hockey centre like Rourkela co-hosting the 2023 edition of the World Cup, it is going to have huge impact in that region. Hockey enthusiasts will see international and Indian stars in action in their own backyard. It will also inspire many youngsters to take up the sport. The craze of the sport in that region will also increase. With world-class facilities, we can even host camps and tournaments in Rourkela,” says Tirkey.
Even as the overall development of hockey has been a priority for Odisha, the government has tied up with different business houses and world-class sportspersons to set up high performance centres in other sports -- including athletics, badminton, football, shooting, swimming and weightlifting -- to nurture talent and produce quality sportspersons from the state.
Hockey has always been popular in rural parts of Odisha. The transformation of Odisha, more so Bhubaneswar, into ‘Hockey Hub’ of India in the last five-six years has been miraculous.