In love with Odisha, its hockey and heritage

People from around the globe share their memorable experiences of the state during the FIH Men’s World Cup

Published: 31st January 2023 09:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st January 2023 03:02 PM   |  A+A-


Brad Hayward and Ellic Hayward whose two sons are playing in two different teams in Hockey World Cup, watch a match bat Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. (Photo | Debadatta Mallick, EPS)

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: For international travellers who arrived in Odisha earlier this month—be it the family members of hockey players or hockey enthusiasts who wanted to witness the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023—Odisha has been nothing short of a unique experience. While some are in awe of the temples and love the local food, others only have praise for the world-class stadiums that the state government has developed for the world cup.

Paul Hendrickx and wife Sandra from Belgium accompanied their son and Belgian hockey champion Alexander Hendrickx to Bhubaneswar. A defender, Alexander was the highest goal scorer in the 14th edition of the hockey world cup that was also played in Bhubaneswar alongside Blake Govers of Australia. He was also the highest goal scorer in the Tokyo Olympic Games with 14 goals including two hat-tricks against Netherlands and South Africa. In both hockey events, Belgium bagged the champion title. 

"Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury in the match against Japan. We will miss him in the final but cheer for our Belgium," said Paul. Beyond Bhubaneswar, the Hendrickx couple has been to Puri and Konark. "Everything about this state is beautiful, be it its people or food or heritage. Even the air in Bhubaneswar is cleaner than that in most European cities," the couple said.

While Alexander played in the 14th Hockey World Cup, his parents could not make it to the city then. "This year, our son insisted that we come to Bhubaneswar to watch him play," Paul added. With Belgium and Netherlands hosting the next hockey world cup, Sandra hopes that it will be as grand as that in Bhubaneswar. "We do not have big stadiums like Kalinga stadium or the Birsa Munda stadium, though," she added.

Like Paul and Sandra, Brad Hayward and his wife Ellic of Australia are cheering for their sons Jeremy and Leon who are playing for Australia and New Zealand respectively. According to Brad, the overnight road trip to Rourkela from Bhubaneswar has been the most memorable experience so far. “We saw Jeremy’s match at Kalinga stadium on January 13 and the same night, we hired a taxi to Rourkela to cheer for our younger son Leon at Birsa Munda Hockey stadium. It was a memorable road trip. We travelled over 400 km in the same cab and stopped at many places to mingle with locals and enjoy the food. People here are very kind and always willing to help," said Ellic, who was born in New Zealand but later shifted to Australia. A former hockey player herself, she had played for Northern Territory, Australia.

The couple's sons earlier played for the Australian team but in the last world cup, Leon failed to confirm his spot in the team as goalkeeper. So, he decided to try his luck in the New Zealand team and got selected in 2019. 

Watching his son play at both hockey venues—Kalinga stadium and Birsa Munda stadium—is also a memory that Olympian Jacques Brinkman will cherish forever. Brinkman, a former Dutch field hockey player who won gold medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, is the father of Netherlands captain and skipper Thierry Brinkman. "I saw both Kalinga and Bisra Munda stadiums. They have created such brilliant facilities at both places. People too are humble in nature  and crazy about hockey which enriches the experience of watching hockey," he said.

Brinkman is among the 50-odd supporters from Netherlands who are in Odisha to cheer for the country that bagged the bronze medal by winning over Australia 3-1.  

Another hockey enthusiast Krish Wijnants is all praises for the state government for making the hockey venues accessible for differently-able hockey enthusiasts. Born in Mumbai, Krish works at a bank in Belgium and is partially paralysed following a brain stroke. Despite his health condition, he decided to visit Odisha to cheer for the Belgium team. "I have been here since the first match of the Belgium team. I am going to Rourkela to watch the last league match there. So far, it has been a very good experience for me," he said. Krish added that both the stadiums have good facilities for differently-abled persons. "They have toilets for specially-able persons and wheelchairs too. Since I am unable to walk, the volunteers at both the stadiums were a huge help," said Krish who played football before meeting with a knee injury. 

Being a footballer, he was a big fan of Belgium national football team Red Devils. "But since they are not playing well these days, I decided to support the Red Lions who are the defending champions of the hockey world cup," said Krish.

From Japan, family members of the participating players Yoshikawa Takashi, Ohashi Masaki, Takade Taiki and Fukuda Kentaro are mesmerised by the Buddhist heritage of the state. “Odisha has some of the world’s richest Buddhist heritage sites. We were happy to see the extraordinary sculptures of Lord Buddha at Dhauli Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa). We decided to visit this historical monument as it was made by Japan Budhha Sangha and Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha," said Yoshikawa’s father Takashi.

Although none of them are fluent in English, their stay in Bhubaneswar was never hampered by language issues. "Because, people are very cooperative," Ohashi added. They have also visited Puri Jagannath temple, Sun temple at Konark. "This is our first visit to Odisha and it has been a memorable one," they added.


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