ROURKELA: The Vice President of India, M Hamid Ansari inaugurated the Biju Patnaik Rural Hockey Championship at Biju Patnaik Hockey Stadium here on Saturday. Overwhelmed at the mammoth gathering of rural hockey players, the Vice President said, “I have never seen such a huge sports gathering at any stadium before.”
The inauguration saw 23,300 rural players raising their hockey sticks together on the green astro-turf ground. Ansari said nowhere in the world even half of the 1,458 participating teams turn up for any field hockey event.
Felicitating hockey Olympians, Michael Kindo, Ignace Tirkey, Birendra Lakra, Ashok Kumar, the son of hockey legend Dhayanchand, and AB Subbaiah, the VP said, “I have never met so many Olympians at a time.”
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik said the tribal-dominated Sundargarh district is a nursery of hockey, which has brought pride and world’s attention to Odisha. He said efforts are underway for infrastructure growth of hockey and other sports. “My government is laying thrust on promotion of sports and development of sportspersons.”
Hockey icon and Rajya Sabha member, Dilip Tirkey said the soul of hockey lies in this tribal-dominated region. Union Tribal Affairs Minister, Jual Oram described Sundargarh district and adjacent tribal-belts of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh as mines of field hockey.
He said a proposal is pending with two Central PSUs to set up a hockey academy in Sundargarh at an investment of about `350 crore. Oram also impressed upon the Chief Minister to restore the Centre of Excellence (CoE) at the Rourkela-based Panposh Sports Hostel (PSH). He said withdrawal of the CoE from PSH to Bhubaneswar is taking a toll on the game in the district.
The Union Minister mooted to set up another hockey CoE at Bhubaneswar.
Tirkey said so far 1,458 rural hockey teams have joined which has never happened in the world of field hockey. Speaking about thrust of Odisha Government for growth of hockey, Tirkey said Bhubaneswar’s hosting the hockey world cup in 2018 is a pride for Odisha.
Tirkey said the tribal community is linked to hockey for long and recalled the first tribal captain of 1928, Jaipal Singh Munda of Jharkhand and subsequent Indian men’s and women’s hockey skippers that Sundargarh has produced.
Odisha Sports Minister Sudam Marandi and Sports Secretary Vishal Dev were also present. The event is being organised as part of the Biju Patnaik birth centenary celebration under the aegis of the Dilip Tirkey Sports Research & Development Foundation.