ROURKELA: Nearly three years after the withdrawal of Centre of Excellence (CoEs) tag for boys and girls hostels from Rourkela-based Panposh Sports Hostel (PSH), the decision of Sports and Youth Affairs Department seems to have boomeranged. A gradual decline has been noticed in the hockey standard in the district.
Now, even as the district hosts Biju Patnaik Rural Hockey Championship, concerns have been raised over future of the sport in its cradle.
Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram took the opportunity of the inaugural event of the championship on Saturday to highlight the plight of the game and its players after shifting of CoE from Panposh to Bhubaneswar. In the presence of Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Sports Minister Sudam Marandi, Oram urged the CM to restore the CoEs at PSH and mooted running another at Bhubaneswar with trainees from across the State.
Well-placed sources said the Department in February 2014 had abruptly shifted 30 senior boys and as many senior girls of the two CoEs to Bhubaneswar Sports Hostel (BSH) in Kalinga Stadium campus. The Department’s argument was that the players would get better exposure at Bhubaneswar. But, 32 months down the line, the hockey standard both at Bhubaneswar and Sundargarh district is on the decline.
Lack of competitive environment and less options for match practice have been blamed for the downslide. There are 27 senior boys left at BSH and they hardly get one match practice in a week against three played by ECoR team. The plight of existing 17 senior girls of BSH is more pathetic as they get to practise with local teams from KIIT and the AG, Odisha team.
A senior coach requesting anonymity said at Rourkela, the players had adequate match practice with equal standard teams of SAIL Hockey Academy (SHA), Rourkela and two teams of Sundargarh Sports Hostel and SAI Hostel, Sundargarh.
On the other hand, above 100 hockey trainees of PSH between 11 and below 18 years in beginner, sub-junior and junior groups miss the opportunity of inspirational environment and ‘learning by observing’ in absence of their seniors, he said.
The PSH, which has so far produced 48 junior and senior international players, is a silent sufferer. This can be gauged from the fact that in the last few years, no fresh talent from Odisha got selected for national camp. The four tribal girls of Sundargarh participating in Rio Olympics were selected between 2008 to 2011.
Hockey Olympian Michael Kindo had earlier said the cascading effect of the decision would prove detrimental to the future of hockey.