Odisha has earned yet another feather in its cap by hosting the Hockey World League Final 2017. If the spectacular success of the Asian Athletics Championships put the state on the global map, the Naveen Patnaik government’s courage to host two back-to-back prestigious international hockey tournaments—the 2018 Men’s Hockey World Cup is the second one—has showcased the state as a destination for global sporting events.
Events of such scale leave a lasting impression on youngsters and provide aspiring sportspersons the much-needed opportunity to watch legends of the game in action and get inspired. Known as the game’s nursery, the state has for years acted as a feeder line for the national hockey pool. From Dilip Tirkey to the young and exciting Dipsan Tirkey, Odisha has produced gems of the game.
If field hockey remains the state’s throbbing heart, the credit must go to the fire that rages in the tribal pockets of Sundargarh which gave Odisha its sporting heroes. In the mid-2000s, at least three players from the district represented India but the state’s fortunes dwindled thereafter. There were many instances of players migrating to other states in search of better livelihood.
But in the last five years, the Odisha government has made the right noises for the promotion of sports. From a paltry budget in the 1990s, it has come a long way where it can afford over `150 crore last year on building infrastructure, promoting sportspersons who have brought laurels for the state and grooming those who have shown the spark.
The government should now focus on creating players at school levels because hockey, despite being a low-maintenance sport, falls way behind cricket and football as a choice of sport for students. This is where the real work starts for the Odisha Government—it can take hockey to the next level because events like the Hockey World League Final and Men’s Hockey World Cup could be the watershed moments it has been looking for.