ROURKELA: After 21 months, the first edition of Biju Patnaik Rural Hockey Championship (BPRHC) will conclude with hosting of semifinal and final matches on September 22 and 23 here. This was announced by hockey icon and former MP of BJD Dilip Tirkey here on Saturday.
While the decision is seen as a face saving exercise and attempt to revive his political fortune ahead of the 2019 General elections, Tirkey denied any political motivation behind it.
On December 10, 2016, former Vice-President M Hamid Ansari had inaugurated the meet, touted to be world's biggest field hockey event, at Biju Patnaik Stadium here in the presence of 23,300 rural hockey players, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram.
Started as part of the Biju Patnaik birth centenary celebration by Dilip Tirkey Sports Research and Development Foundation, 1,458 rural teams from Sundargarh, Jharsuguda and Sambalpur districts besides tribal-dominated adjacent districts in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand had participated. A majority of teams were from Sundargarh, the cradle of hockey.
The first round of matches were held at 32 rural venues, including 26 in Sundargarh, while the semifinal and final matches were supposed to be played at Rourkela between March and April, 2017. But it was left mid-way due to several reasons.
Tirkey said the semifinal and final round of matches of the mega event could not be held due to panchayat polls in February 2017. He also shrugged off talks of trying to take political mileage with holding hockey events before elections in the hockey-crazy Sundargarh. Tirkey claimed that the event was meant to create a platform to promote and popularise rural hockey, identify talents and groom them to ensure regular flow of quality players to the national level. Tirkey's Rajya Sabha tenure ended in March this year.